Kevin Phillips scored the only goal to send Crystal Palace back into the Premier League after an eight-season absence from English soccer’s elite division.
Phillips converted a penalty kick in extra time against Watford, his former team, as Palace won yesterday’s Championship playoff final at Wembley Stadium in London. Wilfried Zaha, who will play for Manchester United next season, won the spot kick when he was fouled by Marco Cassetti.
“It was magnificent to score the winning goal,” Phillips told the British Broadcasting Corp. “I have experienced three losses in this game, so it was great to win. This promotion, with the money in the Premier League, means everything. The club can build to the future with some good young talent.”
The playoff final is the “biggest financial prize in world football,” according to accountant Deloitte LLP. Clubs promoted to the world’s richest soccer league can expect a revenue increase of more than 60 million pounds ($91 million) in 2013-14, with approximately 55 million pounds of that coming from the 20-team Premier League’s 3.02 billion-pound television contract that begins next season.
Teams also receive a minimum 60 million pounds over the following four seasons if they drop straight back down. Over the past decade, 17 of the 30 promoted teams have managed to remain in the Premier League after their first season.
The Eagles dominated during 90 minutes of regulation play, though couldn’t get past former Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia in the Watford goal. A string of saves from the Spaniard pushed the game into extra time.
The breakthrough arrived in the 105th minute when winger Zaha was tripped by Cassetti on a run into the penalty area and Phillips sent his kick into the top corner for the latest ever goal in the Championship playoff final.
Phillips, who played at Watford between 1994 and 1997, scored 30 goals in the 1999-2000 Premier League season for Sunderland to earn European soccer’s Golden Shoe award for the most goals in the continent’s top divisions that year.
Watford almost forced a penalty shootout in the final minute, though Joel Ward headed Fernando Forestieri’s shot off the line as Palace held on for the win.
“I am glad I was involved in all of this,” said Zaha, who made a game-high 24 dribbles according to Opta Sports. “I have been at the club for 10 years, I have nothing but love for the club. Going to Manchester United is good for me, but I had to stay at Palace and get the job done.”
Palace joins Cardiff City and Hull City, which had already earned promotion as the Championship winner and runner-up, in moving up to the Premier League. It’s the fourth time the Eagles have won the playoff final in five appearances.
Watford had been seeking to return to the Premier League for the first time since 2006-07, when it was relegated after one season.
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