Crystal Palace will join Cardiff and Hull in the elite of English football next year as they fought for a 1-0 victory over Watford at Wembley in extra time.
It will be the first time in 8 years that Palace will play in the Premier League and it was Ian Holloway’s 3rd appearance in 4 years at a play-off final, this his 2nd victory.
Zola misses out on becoming a Premier League manager for the 2nd time in his career after leading his side to a 3rd place finish and turning his side into the most prolific team in front of goal in the championship.
The Italien will endure another season in the Championship while their opponents enjoy the spoils and walk away with £120 million.
The match is dubbed as the richest match in football which makes the game all the more intense for both teams.
The first half was a cagey and lacklusture affair with both sides boasting a few efforts on goal.Palace could only produce glimpses of promise through some bursting runs from Wilfried Zaha.
Much of the attention was on Zaha prior to the game and he was certainly giving the Watford defence something to think about.
Watford’s best chance came when Troy Deeney squirmed his pace through to Matej Vydra who saw his clinical shot blocked by Damian Delaney who did very well to make the interception.
Matej Vydra had taken a knock and was struggling to continue, he was then substituted at half time for Alex Geijo.
The second half was the game we had all anticipated and was very open from the start with both teams attempting to hit the ground running.
The first real chance of the game fell to Stuart O’Keefe when he brilliantly turned his man but his low shot was well saved by Manuel Almunia.
The Spanish goalkeeper was quick to rescue his team from the resulting corner after some poor defending left Aaron Wilbraham with a gaping chance but his slide shot was thwarted by the former Arsenal man.
Palace had the ascendancy and found Alumnia a huge obstacle to beat after Wilbraham was denied another great chance and Owen Garvan’s snap shot was greatfully clutched.
Watford could only muster up a half chance at best when Deeney’s acrobatic effort sailed over the bar and the game fell into extra time.
The Hornets unsettled the Palace defence after a curling ball found its way to Deeney’s feet only to see his efforts to keep possession denied by Julian Speroni who palmed the ball away at his feet.
Just before the half time whistle, Palace’s moment came when the persistent Zaha drew a foul from Marco Cassetti inside the penalty area forcing Martin Atkinson to point to the penalty spot.
Up stepped Kevin Phillips to confidently strike the ball into the top left hand corner leaving Almunia with little chance. The breakthrough had finally come after 105 minutes of football.
Watford threw the everything they had and the kitchen sink at the Eagles to try and grab a late equalizer and they almost had it when some intricate play found its way to Fernando Forestieri in the box.
He squirmed past two Palace defenders only to see his curling shot with the outside of his foot headed off the line by Joel Ward in what was a certain goal if his presence had been elsewhere.
That would be Watford’s last effort on goal as the final whistle blew to the jubilation of Ian Holloway and the rest of his men.
After Wilfried Zaha’s man of the match display, Holloway admitted that he wanted the young starlet to stay on at the Eagles for their next season in the Premier League but understand the task will be difficult.
He said: “I think Moyes would be silly to give me him back. Now we’re up it might be realistic but who knows?
“Moyes will know the task he’s got. Mine will be staying up, his will be winning every week. Good luck to him and good luck to us.”