Crystal Palace have ended their long stay in the Championship, winning promotion on Monday by defeating Watford 1-0 after extra time. A rather uneventful first hour gave way to a thrilling second hour, where Palace star Wilfried Zaha won the clinching penalty in what was almost certainly his last game for the club.
The first half was a chippy one, with both teams playing fast and direct but failing to create quality chances. The biggest events of the half were two injuries, one to each team. Kashigo Dikgacoi was forced off in the 18th minute and was replaced by Stuart O'Keefe, while Matej Vydra limped off just before halftime. Alexandre Geijo came on to replace him to start the second half.
Things began to open up with both teams showing signs of being able to create quality chances around the 55th minute. The first time either keeper was truly tested came in the 65th minute, when Zaha squared for O'Keefe, setting him up for a shot just inside the box, but Manuel Almunia pulled off a quality save.
Shortly afterwards, both teams went to their benches, making attacking substitutions. Phillips came on for Jonathan Williams in the 65th minute, while Christian Battocchio replaced Nathaniel Chalobah for Watford in the 73rd minute.
Both sides had a few decent chances just before the end of regulation. Aaron Wilbraham found himself in a bit of space around the penalty area in the 83rd minute and fired a half-volley in on goal, but his shot was right to Almunia. Watford had a couple of decent chances on the counter late, but wasn't able to convert. Julian Speroni came off his line to make a stop on Geijo at the end of an 85th minute counter. Troy Deeney squandered a good chance with a shot well wide in the 90th minute, and the teams headed to extra time.
Speroni came up huge just three minutes into extra time, making the play of the match with a fantastic point-blank stop on Deeney. Watford, after spending a lot of the second half on the back foot, seemed to finally come to life and take control in the first period of extra time. They kept the pressure on and forced Speroni into another save, on a volley from Battocchio in the 98th minute.
However, the tables turned just seconds before referee Martin Atkinson was set to blow his whistle to signal the end of the first half of extra time. Zaha drew a penalty in the 105th minute, with Watford's best and most experienced defender Marco Cassetti stunningly committing the infraction. With Zaha running away from goal, in no position to shoot, he made an ill-advised and desperate challenge from behind, catching Zaha in the process. Atkinson correctly pointed to the spot and showed a yellow card to Cassetti.
Phillips stepped up and finished an absolutely beautiful penalty, showing why he can still play at this level even if his other physical attributes have declined sharply. Almunia went the right way and nearly got a finger to Phillips' shot, but it was placed perfectly into the top corner of the net. A couple of inches lower and Almunia would have come up with a brilliant save.
The dying minutes were dramatic, but Palace were able to hang on. A 118th minute scramble in the box saw Joel Ekstrand have a shot blocked and Almen Abdi sky his follow-up attempt over the crossbar. Joe Ward made the big £120 million play two minutes later, clearing a curled shot by Fernando Forestieri off the line with a brilliant header.
Deeney had a shot blocked two minutes later that led to a pair of Watford corners, but the Hornets could do nothing with them as Palace hung on to seal promotion.