Thursday, May 30, 2013

Crystal Palace earn promotion to English Premier League

After eight years of playing in the lower tiers of English soccer, London-based team Crystal Palace has earned promotion to the Premier League. The club won the Championship League playoff final at Wembley Stadium on May 27 with a 1-0 victory over Watford in extra time. Thirty-nine year old striker Kevin Phillips, who came into the game as a substitute, scored the only goal of the contest on a penalty kick in the 106th minute of play.

Phillips, who used to play for Watford and is a former England international, drove the ball into the upper region of the net with his spot kick from 12 yards out. Crystal Palace was awarded the penalty when Watford’s Mario Cassetti fouled Wilfried Zaha in the 18-yard box. Phillips has played in three previous playoff finals and had lost every one of them until the victory over Watford. He said it’s a tremendous feeling and a bit of a fairytale, to enter the game as a substitute and then score the winning goal against one of his former teams.

Crystal Palace dominated the match, but it was goalless after 90 minutes and 30 minutes of extra time were added on to find a winner. Watford still had 14 minutes to tie the game after they fell behind, but couldn’t come up with an equalizer that would have forced the game into a penalty shootout. It was a huge win for Crystal Palace as it’s estimated the move into the Premier League will net them approximately $181.15 million over the next few years. This income will help the franchise out enormously since it was rescued from bankruptcy just three years ago.

Zaha was named the player of the game as he was dangerous every time he touched the ball. Even if Crystal
Palace had lost the game Zaha, an England international, would be playing in the Premier League next season anyway since he’s agreed to a deal with league champions Manchester United. The game was quite tame during the first half, but the pace picked up during the second 45 minutes. Watford goalkeeper Manuel Almunia of Spain pulled off a series of excellent saves to keep the score at 0-0.

Crystal Palace finished the regular season in fifth place in the Championship League while Watford came in third. Cardiff City won the league title and were promoted automatically to the Premier League as were Hull City, the league runners up. Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway said the promotion is massive for his team and they’ll try as hard as possible to make sure they can remain in the Premier League for as long as possible.

Watford manager Gianfranco Zola of Italy said his team didn’t play up to their potential, but losing on a late penalty kick is still hard to swallow. He admitted that Crystal Palace played a better game over the 120 minutes and they deserved the victory and promotion.

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