Amazing 90 seconds send Gianfranco Zola's Watford to Wembley
Manuel Almunia makes double save from an injury-time penalty before Troy Deeney sends Watford back to Wembley
Sunday 12 May 2013
Football’s capacity for the dramatic has been quite remarkably high this season, but the final 90 seconds of this match will surely never be forgotten by the supporters of both these clubs.
The seven minutes of added time had almost expired when Leicester’s Anthony Knockaert went to earth under the gentlest of contact from Watford defender Marco Cassetti and referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot. Hornets’ manger Gianfranco Zola was distraught, and even opposite number Nigel Pearson subsequently admitted the decision to have been generous.
Awarded it was, however, and knowing it would almost certainly put his side into the final, Knockaert himself took it, only to see Watford goalkeeper Manuel Almunia block the shot with his feet. The ball rebounded to Knockaert, but this time Almunia saved with his hand, and the ball was cleared. Ikechi Anya picked up possession, played it down the right wing for Fernando Forestrieri, the cross was headed back across goal by Jonathan Hogg, and lashed joyously into the net by Troy Deeney.
Deeney, who began the season in prison for affray, ran to his family in the stands. “They supported me throughout the difficult times, and though I’m not a cryer I nearly did at that moment,” the striker admitted. “As soon as Manuel saved the penalty I knew we were going to score.”
Watford manager Gianfranco Zola, whose faith in Matej Vydra as Deeney’s partner up front was vindicated when the Czech scored twice, the first a quite brilliant volley on the turn as the ball dropped over his left shoulder, the second a cool finish after being played in by the outstanding Deeney, was still emotional an hour after the final whistle.
“It was a very soft penalty at the end of a game like that, and in the last two months I have felt so many times we should have had penalties ourselves,” he said.
“But ‘Manu’ did the rest, and as soon as I saw the ball travelling to our strikers I thought of the film of Brentford conceding against Doncaster,” said Zola, who after Deeney’s shot went in ran on the pitch and fell over.
“I didn’t know what I was doing, I felt the ground slip from under me and I’ve probably pulled something, but it’s OK, I can’t feel it now,” smiled the Italian, a little sheepishly. “That’s the passion, that’s why we love this game.”
Almunia, who is carrying a hamstring injury and had an injection to ensure he was fit to play, was relatively restrained.
“It’s the good side of football for us now, and the bad side for Leicester – I am very sorry for them,” said the former Arsenal goalkeeper.
“What football makes you feel is the same whoever you are playing for. I looked at the faces of my team-mates afterwards and there are not many things that can make you feel this way. When it came to the penalty, it was not a special save, a bit of luck, a right guess.”
Pearson was remarkably calm, after seeing David Nugent’s header equalise Vydra’s volley before his side came within a penalty kick of victory.
“I can’t think of a worst way to lose a match like that. It can be a very cruel game at times, and for the players to experience what they did is very tough. Anthony is distraught.”
He said he was confident he would be given the chance to take Leicester up next season.
Latest in Sport
Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs posts bizarre video of his Miami holiday being invaded by an iguana
Raheem Sterling to Manchester City: Winger to report for Liverpool training on Monday but Reds braced for third City bid this week
Women's World Cup 2015: England secure third place as they beat Germany in extra time with penalty by Fara Williams
Toby Alderweireld to Tottenham: Atletico Madrid 'accept £11m bid' as Spurs beat Southampton to defender
Alexis Sanchez 'will miss start of Arsenal season' after Chile go all the way in Copa America
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 3 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 4 Motorists taunt suicidal woman on bridge and tell her to 'get on with it'
- 5 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture