Monday 27 May 2013
Crystal Palace secured promotion to the Barclays Premier League for the first time since 2005 with a 1-0 play-off Championship final win over Watford.
Former Watford striker Kevin Phillips was the hero at Wembley for Palace as he scored a penalty in the first half of extra-time to seal victory for the London club in a tight affair.
Wilfried Zaha, playing his final game for the club before a move to Manchester United, won the spot-kick, tempting Marco Cassetti into a foul in the area with a trademark tricky run. Although Fernando Forestieri came within inches of forcing a penalty shootout, Palace held out to ensure they would return to the English top flight.
Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway named an unchanged line-up for the Wembley showpiece, sticking with the same team who had beaten Brighton 2-0 in the second leg of the semi-final. Watford manager Gianfranco Zola made two changes from the side who earned a dramatic late win over Leicester City, with Daniel Pudil coming in for Matthew Briggs and Jonathan Hogg replacing Cristian Battocchio.
Both teams struggled to create much in the early stages, with Kagisho Dikgacoi's early injury leading to the midfielder to be replaced by Stuart O'Keefe after 16 minutes, the only real incident of the opening stages.
Zaha and Matej Vydra both tried to inject life into the contest for their respective teams, but a blocked shot from the latter after 32 minutes was the best opportunity of the half.
Watford started the second half the brighter of the two, but Palace created the match's first genuine opening, striker Aaron Wilbraham bursting through on the counter-attack, only to see his shot well saved by former Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.
That chance gave Holloway's men a boost and Almunia again came to Watford's rescue to deny O'Keefe after he had latched on to Zaha's pull-back following a wonderful ball over the top from Mile Jedinak. The Spaniard then sprung into action again from the resulting corner, denying Wilbraham once more from close range.
Phillips, who turns 40 in July, was thrown into the fray a minute later, but it was former Norwich City striker Wilbraham who continued to be the man at the centre of Palace's forays forward. He was prevented from scoring again as Almunia made another fine point-blank save.
In extra-time Watford gained confidence after seeing out a difficult second-half spell and came close to snatching a surprise lead when Julian Speroni, the Palace goalkeeper, kept out Troy Deeney's effort from two yards after the forward had collected Almen Abdi's low cross.
It was Zaha who made the telling impact, as he was felled by Cassetti just inside the area after a surging run, enabling Phillips to step up and power the spot-kick into the top corner. It was Phillips's first play-off final win at the fourth attempt.
Palace survived a scare at the death thanks to Joel Ward, who cleared Forestieri's late effort off the line to join Cardiff City and Hull City, who were promoted automatically from the Championship.