Crystal Palace Crystal Palace
Watford FC have been relegated from the Premier League, after a first-half Wilfried Zaha penalty earned Crystal Palace a narrow 1-0 win over the Hornets at Selhurst Park.
Roy Hodgson’s men remain on 22 points having fallen to a sixth straight defeat, and are unable to make up the 12-point gap between themselves and 17th-placed Leeds United in the three games remaining this campaign.
Zaha made no mistake from the penalty spot after Hassane Kamara was judged to have handled illegally in the 18-yard box, and matters got worse for the Golden Boys defender when he was sent off for a second bookable offence in the second half.
Joshua King, Samir and Moussa Sissoko were among those in yellow to enjoy decent scoring opportunities, but the Palace backline stood firm to see out the win and confirm that Watford will be playing Sky Bet Championship football next season.
Kick-off was delayed due to a barrage of balloons entering the field of play after the teams had lined up on the pitch, and the hosts were the quickest to settle once referee Graham Scott had blown his whistle.
Highly-rated midfielder Conor Gallagher produced the first whiff of a chance in the fourth minute when his attempted cross from the right was turned out for a corner, before Marc Guéhi headed over at the back post a minute later.
Michael Olise was next to try his luck but blasted his 20-yard effort off target, and then top scorer Zaha skewed a tame shot towards goal that was comfortably dealt with by Golden Boys No.1 Ben Foster.
Watford - who had made four changes to the starting XI in the wake of last weekend’s Burnley defeat - did gradually grow into the contest and enjoyed a sustained spell of possession around the 20-minute mark, the returning Edo Kayembe seeing a powerful shot blocked before Kamara looped in a cross too close to home stopper Jack Butland.
But that hard work was undone just after the half-hour when an Olise header came off Kamara’s arm and Palace were awarded a spot-kick, with Zaha comfortably converting from 12 yards to make it 1-0.
Samir rose highest to meet a Watford cross but saw his headed attempt deflected out as the visitors looked to provide a quick response to going behind, but back at the other end King had to be alert to divert an Eberechi Eze free-kick out of play at the front post.
Kamara looked to lead the attempted Watford fightback, with the Ivory Coast international contributing a lung-busting run before shooting at goal, and then Sissoko won a second corner in quick succession with a close-range header.
Foster was called upon to acrobatically deny Guéhi as Palace looked to end the first half with a bang, and though there was time for Olise to go close from a tight angle with the clock in the red, the difference remained one goal at the break.
The sides traded blows at the start of the second period as they each looked to gain vital momentum, and after King added to Watford’s shot tally midfielder Tom Cleverley was forced off with injury, being replaced by Ken Sema.
Odsonne Édouard thought he had done enough to double Palace’s lead in the 62nd minute after he evaded Craig Cathcart and Kayembe challenges, but his goalward shot deflected off Foster onto the post, and the Hornets eventually cleared the danger.
Watford’s task became even greater six minutes later when Kamara was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence, with the 28-year-old this time punished for a foul on the heavily-involved Olise.
It didn’t take long for home substitute Jean-Philippe Mateta to showcase his threat after coming on, though Foster was equal to his headed attempt late on, and with an extra man Palace controlled possession until the final whistle sounded, sealing Watford’s fate.