Hornets Lose At Wembley
28 May 2013, 07:52
Watford's hopes of playing in the Premier League next season have ended in heartbreak at Wembley.
The Hornets were beaten one-nil by Crystal Palace in the Championship Play-Off Final on Bank Holiday Monday 27 May 2013 - a match with the biggest financial prize in football.
The loss means Watford will miss out on an estimated £120m of extra revenue they would have earnt for playing in the top flight.
The game was decided by a penalty in extra-time, scored by Kevin Phillips, 39.
Watford manager Gianfranco Zola has vowed Watford will bounce back.
Zola was magnanimous in defeat, conceding Palace were the better side on the day and insisting his side will respond next term.
He said: "This game doesn't take anything away from our season. It's been a very good season.
"It's a very unfortunate thing we didn't play our best game. They played better and they deserved to win the game.
"We're going to be stronger next year. This is not the end of the road for us, this is just the beginning.
"I enjoy what I'm doing here and I'm going to make sure even my contribution is going to be better next year.''
Watford are owned by the Pozzo family and their use of loan players from Udinese and Granada - also owned by the Italians - has been criticised.
Zola would not be drawn on whether the players he has on loan - seven loanees were in the starting XI - would stay next term but is confident of an improvement, suggesting automatic promotion is the target.
"We are all much more prepared about what we have to face next year,'' Zola said.
"This year many points were not so clear. Many players came in, we didn't know if they were able to adapt to the new challenge.
"Now we know where we're going, more or less what we have to face and we have a very good platform to start from.
"We're going to improve the team, improve the squad and we're going to be more competitive.''
Phillips converted a penalty awarded when £15million Manchester United-bound winger Wilfried Zaha was tripped by Marco Cassetti.
Zaha spent the afternoon bamboozling the Hornets defence and, as Sir Alex Ferguson's final signing at United, appears to be a shrewd investment for David Moyes.
"I think he's been the difference,'' Zola said.
"He created the penalty from nothing. He's got a lot of ability.
"Now he's got a big task because he's going to play for the champions, and the level that he has to play at is a little bit bigger.
"I'm sure he will learn. He's going to a place very good at improving players.
"He can go very far because the boy has got a lot of talent.''