Crystal Palace 1-0 Watford (aet)

By Paul FletcherBBC Sport at Wembley
Palace promoted to Premier League

Veteran Kevin Phillips scored the only goal as Crystal Palace deservedly defeated Watford in a tense Championship play-off final at Wembley.

The 39-year-old, a loser in three previous play-off finals, struck from the penalty spot at the end of the first half of extra time as the Eagles ended an eight-year absence from the Premier League.

It was a superb penalty kick into the top corner and came after a clumsy foul by Marco Cassetti on Wilfried Zaha, who has been at Palace since the age of nine and was playing his final game before his summer move to Manchester United.

Watford almost equalised at the very end but Joel Ward headed off the line from Fernando Forestieri as the Eagles held on to win a match that had been described as being worth £120m to the victors.

Palace were almost relegated to the third tier of English football at the end of the 2009-10 season and have been in administration since their last period in the Premier League, but they can now look forward to an exciting and financially beneficial chapter in their history.

In defeating an below-par Watford, Palace become the first club to win promotion to the top flight at the old Wembley, the Millennium Stadium and now the new Wembley.

And they are now the first club to have won promotion to the Premier League five times, although they will be hoping this particular stay is longer than their previous four visits, which all lasted just one season.

Holloway praises 'outstanding' Palace

Perhaps the sheer size of the prize at stake was partly responsible for what was in many ways a disappointing game between the two teams who scored the most goals in this season's Championship.

Zaha had some good touches in the opening 30 minutes and Watford, with seven loan players in their starting XI, eventually began to show the sort of precise, attacking football that had taken them to within a whisker of automatic promotion, but neither goalkeeper had to make a save in the first half.

If anything, the final was worse in the opening stages of the second half before Palace, who had won only one of their final 10 games of the regular season, finally started to create some decent chances.

Aaron Wilbraham, with one goal to his name all season in a Capital One Cup defeat against Preston back in August, had three excellent chances to show that he could handle the big occasion in the absence of injured 30-goal forward Glenn Murray.

He was played clean through with his first opening just before the hour mark but was forced to check inside before his shot was smothered by Manuel Almunia.

After the increasingly ragged Hornets failed to clear an innocuous header back into their box, Wilbraham had a shooting chance just four yards from goal but was again denied by Almunia, who also saved with his legs from Wilbraham shortly before the end of normal time.

Crystal Palace were better - Zola

Stuart O'Keefe - a first-half replacement for the injured Kagisho Dikgacoi - Owen Garvan and skipper Mile Jedinak also forced saves from Almunia.

Watford were extremely poor in the second half but Troy Deeney, who netted the dramatic winner in the semi-final victory over Leicester, seemed certain to score at the start of extra time only for Julian Speroni to make a brave and timely scooped clearance.

But it was the Eagles who eventually found the net, former Watford man Phillips picking out the top corner from the spot in the 105th minute after Cassetti had needlessly brought down Zaha.

Almen Abdi - perhaps typifying his team's afternoon - shot disappointingly wide from a decent position and Ward headed off the line as Palace boss Ian Holloway, who took over in November, saw his team hold on to finish the season with promotion.


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