Watford and Hodgson relegated after Zaha gives Crystal Palace victory

As Roy Hodgson watched Watford’s inevitable demise with his hands planted firmly in his suit trousers, it all seemed most unfair.

For the first time in his long and distinguished career, the former England manager has been relegated from the Premier League after a penalty from Wilfried Zaha – his 13th league goal of the campaign – secured Crystal Palace a 1-0 victory that could easily have been many more.

A red card in the second half for the unfortunate Hassane Kamara after he had earlier given away the decisive spot kick compounded Watford’s misery on a day when they had needed everything to go their way and nothing did.

But following his appointment in January with the club already mired deep in relegation trouble, Hodgson will know that – in truth – there was never much he could have done to save a team so lacking in quality throughout.

Having received a CBE for services to football during the week, this was the 74-year-old’s second engagement at the Palace in only a few days and in much more familiar surroundings. Hodgson was afforded a rapturous reception from the home supporters who still no doubt very much appreciate the sterling work he accomplished during 162 matches in charge of his boyhood club.

In his programme notes, the Palace co-chairman, Steve Parish, admitted his regret that Hodgson was not given “the send off he truly deserved” last year due to Covid restrictions. But having selected Eberechi Eze, Michael Olise and Zaha in the same starting line-up for the first time in the Premier League, Patrick Vieira clearly had no plans to be charitable to his predecessor.

Roy Hodgson watches on
Roy Hodgson was relegated from the Premier League for the first time after Watford’s 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace. Photograph: Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images

Palace’s win over Southampton last week revived their hopes of surpassing 50 points for the first time in the Premier League and they could have taken an early lead had Marc Guéhi’s header from a corner been on target, while Olise also fired over from inside the box.

Despite making four changes from the gut-wrenching defeat to Burnley last week that virtually sealed their fate, it took Watford the best part of 20 minutes to even threaten their opponents’ penalty area.

Not for the first time this season, their downfall was self-induced. Kamara misjudged his jump in an attempt to clear Eze’s cross to the back post and Olise’s header struck the Ivory Coast defender’s outstretched arm. Kamara claimed that he had been pushed but despite replays showing there had been slight contact, referee Graham Scott was vindicated after the incident was checked by VAR and Zaha made no mistake from the spot.

A header from Samir that drifted wide of the post at least offered some hope for the travelling supporters, while Tom Cleverley needed treatment after almost connecting with another set piece but instead colliding with Emmanuel Dennis.

Guéhi was the next to go down after his flying header was expertly saved by Ben Foster before Olise wasted a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 in first-half injury time when he blazed over from close range.

Hodgson certainly seemed to sympathise with Kamara as the teams made their way down the tunnel, with Scott also explaining his decision to the Watford defender.

Cleverley’s afternoon was over a few minutes into the second half after the former Manchester United midfielder limped off to be replaced by Ken Sema. Odsonne Édouard – making only his second league start since 12 February having fallen behind Jean-Philippe Mateta in the Palace pecking order – almost created a goal for himself after a mazy dribble but the Frenchman’s shot cannoned back off the post after going through Foster’s legs.

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Kamara’s dismissal after he was shown a second yellow card for pushing Olise to the ground made the task even more difficult for Watford, although – to their relief – Palace seemed to take their foot off the gas in the dying stages. Mateta almost scored with one of his first few touches after a teasing cross from Olise and Jeffrey Schlupp produced another outstanding save from Foster.

But the victory means Palace move up to ninth spot while Watford must now lick their wounds and prepare for another season in the Championship.