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Crystal Palace Win Promotion to the Premiership

From the Crystal Palace website:

A Kevin Phillips penalty in extra-time was enough for Crystal Palace to be promoted to the Premier League after they saw off the challenge of Watford in the Championship Play-Off Final by a single goal.
At the start of the season promotion seemed like a pipe-dream to even the most optimistic Eagles fan but Ian Holloway delivered the ultimate prize of Championship action after a nerve-wracking 120 minutes at Wembley.
Just like the classic cup-finals of the past, the two sides emerged onto a pristine Wembley pitch basked in sunshine to a rapturous welcome with the Eagles fans creating a carnival-like atmosphere thanks to hundreds of red and blue balloons which bobbed around their half of the stadium in the early stages.
However the 15 minutes was a cagey affair with neither side managing to test the goalkeepers but Palace suffered an early blow when Kagisho Dikgacoi picked up an injury and had to be replaced by Stuart O’Keefe.
Soon after though the lightning pace and trickery of Wilfired Zaha came to the fore. On 20 minutes he ghosted past Nathaniel Chalobah and cut the ball back into the path of Owen Garvan but he saw his attempt blocked by Lloyd Doyley.
Opportunities to shoot had eluded the Hornets until the 33rd minutes when a slick passing move allowed Matej Vydra a sight of goal, but he was thwarted by a magnificent sliding tackle by Damien Delaney.
Indeed it wasn’t until deep into the first-half when a shot finally headed towards goal but Ikechi Anya’s drive flew well over from 25 yards when a corner was cleared to him as a first 45 filled with tension but not much action drew to a close.
The second half was a much more open encounter and Chalobah shanked a shot wide before Aaron Wilbraham used his chest to control the ball in the box and hit a strike on the turn but again Palace saw an attempt at goal blocked.
However the big striker had a great chance to put his side in the lead when he broke onto a loose ball after an Owen Garvan tackle in midfield and did well to put Manuel Almunia on his backside but that allowed Joel Ekstrand to get back and get in the away of his shot.
Palace continued to carve out opportunities and had three fantastic chances within 60 seconds. Firstly a great run from Zaha set up O’Keefe whose drive from just inside the box was saved by Almunia, and then when the resulting corner was lofted back into the six yard box it somehow found its way to Wilbraham who again tested Almunia. From that corner Danny Gabbidon found himself unmarked at the back post but couldn’t control the ball and the opportunity went begging.
The Eagles were dictating play and Garvan saw an effort bounce wide after a swift counter-attack and the same player saw a half-volley head straight towards Almunia after a knock-down from substitute Kevin Phillips with 10 minutes remaining.
Four minutes later and Wilbraham could have sealed promotion when he was one-on-one with the Watford keeper but hit the ball straight at him and at the other end Troy Deeney saw a couple of mis-cued efforts go well wide of the target.
In injury-time Palace again pressed and created a couple of opportunities when Zaha again got down the left and saw an effort deflect into the side-netting, and from Andre Moritz’s corner Mile Jedinak headed towards goal but it was caught by the diving Almunia as the game went into extra-time.
Only two minutes into the allotted 30 Julian Speroni had to be at his best to claw the ball away from the feet of Deeney a couple of yards from his line and Cristian Battocchio could only find the Argentinian custodian with a blast from 25 yards.
However in the final seconds on the first half Zaha broke into the area and a tired-looking tackle from Marco Cassetti tripped the winger, and Martin Atkinson was fully justified in pointing to the spot. Phillips stepped up to fire the ball into the top corner and give his side the advantage against his first professional club.
The second half saw the Hornets throw players forward in an attempt to rescue their promotion dreams and Anya saw a free-kick comfortably collected by Speroni and Abdi missed the target with an attempted curler, but in the final minute Joel Ward headed off the line after a shot from Fernando Forestieri and Deeney saw a deflected shot trickle wide as the Eagles booked their place in the Premier League next season.

Palace: Speroni, Ward, Gabbidon, Delaney, Moxey, Jedinak, Dikgacoi (O’Keefe 18), Garvan (Moritz 84), Williams (Phillips 66), Zaha, Wilbraham. Subs not used: Price, Richards, Ramage, Bolasie.
Watford: Almunia; Doyley, Ekstrand, Cassetti; Anya (Forestieri 86), Chalobah (Battocchio 74), Hogg, Abdi, Pudil; Deeney, Vydra (Geijo 46). Subs not used: Bond, Hall, Briggs, Yeates.

The winning goal by 39-year-old Kevin Phillips from the penalty spot

From the RTE News / Sports website: 

Kevin Phillips grabbed the golden goal to fire Crystal Palace into the Barclays Premier League with a 1-0 win and end his play-off final hoodoo. he evergreen striker, who turns 40 in the summer, kept his nerve to blast in an extra-time penalty and dash his former club Watford’s dreams of promotion. It was a special moment for Phillips, who had lost all three of his previous play-off finals. It was special too for Manchester United-bound Wilfried Zaha, the young winger who signed off as a Palace player by winning the penalty and ensuring they will join him in the top flight next season. Special too for manager Ian Holloway, whose Blackpool side were beaten by West Ham in last year’s final, and who has been the fiercest critic of Watford’s controversial use of loan players. And it was special for Palace chairman Steve Parish and his co-owners, who saved the club from going bust three years ago and can now look forward to a windfall in the region of £120million.
Those high stakes seemed to overwhelm Watford, whose key performers this season simply did not show up at Wembley. The Championship’s player of the year Matej Vydra, one of the 10 players Watford borrowed from sister clubs in Italy and Spain, endured a miserable first half and limped off at half-time. Instead it was Zaha who caught the eye throughout, and he lured Marco Cassetti into the clumsy lunge which ultimately settled the match in the 104th minute. The 20-year-old, Alex Ferguson’s final signing for United, created Palace’s only chance of the first half with a scintillating run down the right, leaving Nathaniel Chalobah and Cassetti chasing shadows before pulling the ball back to Owen Garvan, whose shot was blocked.
Watford, the top scorers in the Championship this season, were strangely subdued and caused few alarms in the Palace penalty area. Troy Deeney crossed to no one when he should have shot, before Vydra was denied by a superb last-ditch tackle from Damien Delaney on the edge of the area. Chelsea loanee Chalobah, with his prospective new boss Jose Mourinho in the stands, fizzed a low cross into the box but no one could get a touch.
Injuries did not help the flow of the game either – Palace midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi succumbed to a calf problem early on and Vydra spent most of the first half limping around forlornly before failing to emerge for the second. It took almost an hour for the first shot on target to be registered, and Alex Geijo’s grasscutter did not pose Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni any problems. Palace did create a clear opening moments later but unfortunately it fell to Aaron Wilbraham, the player filling the void left by injured top scorer Glenn Murray and with one goal to his name all season. The striker did not look confident as he bore down on goal and, having opted to turn back inside rather than shoot early, the opportunity disappeared.
But the game was at last opening up, and Zaha went on another mazy run before playing in Stuart O’Keefe, whose shot was saved by Manuel Almunia. The corner fell to Wilbraham, with Almunia blocking again, before Danny Gabbidon’s poor touch in front of a gaping goal from another corner left the defender with his head in his hands. Almunia, having spent the first half as a virtual spectator, was now keeping his side in the match with fine saves from Garvan, Wilbraham and Mile Jedinak.
In extra-time it was Speroni who was forced into action to claw the ball from underneath Deeney as he chased Almen Abdi’s cross. But the breakthrough came when Cassetti, by now dizzy having been twisted and turned by Zaha yet again, brought the winger down in the area. Referee Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot and Phillips crashed the penalty high into the net. The drama did not end there with Joel Ward clearing Fernando Forestieri’s shot off the line in stoppage time.
But it was Zaha, Phillips and Holloway who were celebrating moments later as the Eagles secured their return to the top flight after an eight-year absence.

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