Sevilla FC No1 Andrés Palop marvelled at "a gift from God" as he joined the select band of goalkeepers to score a goal in European competition last night.
The 33-year-old rescued the UEFA Cup holders by heading a goal in added time at FC Shakhtar Donetsk to take the game into extra time, where Ernesto Chevantón scored the goal that gave Sevilla a 5-4 aggregate win following two 2-2 draws. "It's unusual for a keeper to go up for a corner kick," he said. "Their defenders were marking all of our players so I was left on my own. I then started doing feinting movements like I'd seen my colleagues do in training and the ball just came to me. When I saw it I thought: 'this is a gift from God'. It was an important goal which I want to dedicate to my two sons."
The custodian joined Sevilla in 2005 after six seasons as second-choice custodian at Valencia CF. Having won the UEFA Cup last season, it is a move he has had no reason to regret. "Ever since I arrived at the club, things I could never have imagined have been happening to me," said Palop, who also spent two seasons at Villarreal CF in the late 1990s. "We're one step away from the Spanish Cup semi-finals, level on points at the top of the league table and now in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals. These are the kind of unforgettable times I had always dreamed of and worked towards."
Sevilla coach Juande Ramos knew the tide had turned in his side's favour once Palop scored. He said: "We started very well and had five or six chances in the first half. We got the luck we had lacked when the keeper scored - it's the first time that has happened to me." Palop is the tenth goalkeeper to score in the UEFA Cup but oddly is not the first this season. AS Livorno Calcio goalkeeper Marco Amelia also scored with his head with two minutes remaining of the group stage game against FK Partizan to earn a 1-1 draw.
Should Sevilla be paired with Bayer 04 Leverkusen in today's UEFA Cup draw, Palop could come up against Jörg Butt, one of Europe's top goalscoring goalkeepers. Butt has scored 16 times in the Bundesliga and twice in European competition - both times from the penalty spot against Juventus, although one was for Hamburger SV and one for Leverkusen.
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