Anatomy of a goal: Troy Deeney's unbelievable stoppage time play-off winner

12 May 2021 08:15

Football; it's more than a game. It's a heartbeat of community, it's a way of life and it's a rollercoaster of emotion - a heart-wrenching rollercoaster, on occasion.

The latter of those things has arguably never been exemplified more perfectly than the latter stages of Watford and Leicester's Championship play-off semi-final second leg, played at Vicarage Road on 12 May, 2013.

The first leg had set up the second nicely. Leicester hosted their opponents at King Power Stadium and walked away with a 1-0 aggregate lead at the midway point of the tie, courtesy of David Nugent's 82nd minute strike.

David Nugent celebrates his first leg goal | Clive Mason/Getty Images

Watford started well and broke the deadlock through Matej Vydra's 15th minute goal. Nugent equalised four minutes later, only for Vydra to get the tie back on level terms with his second of the game in the 65th minute.

Poised at 2-2, it was set to be a thrilling conclusion for the prize of an appearance at Wembley in the Championship play-off final. Thrilling doesn't even cover it.

Hornets hearts sunk to the floor as referee Michael Oliver awarded the Foxes a penalty in injury-time. Marco Cassetti was unfathomably, in an era before VAR had even been thought about, adjudged to have brought down Anthony Knockaert, who picked himself up and lined up to take the spot-kick.

But former Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia would write his name in Watford folklore with his subsequent actions. The Spaniard not only saved Knockaert's penalty, but jumped back out to smother the Frenchman's rebound and barked for his colleagues to move out as the ball had been cleared - heroic stuff as Watford's fans celebrated wildly.

But the players in yellow weren't ready to take a breath and recover from what had just occurred, no, no. Gianfranco Zola's men quickly got the ball back under control and surged over the halfway line to mount their own attack. Fernando Forestieri was played in down the right flank and managed to dig out a flighted cross towards the back post.

For a reason that no one in that split second could understand, Jonathon Hogg elected to lay the ball back across the area rather than head towards goal, and then it happened.


Watford cult hero Troy Deeney was there to latch onto Hogg's lay off and rifle a half volley into the back of the net with the last kick of the game, sending his side to Wembley and his supporters into another dimension. To coin a popular phrase, 'limbs were flying', particularly as a sea of Hornets fans invaded the pitch.

Even Zola was caught up in the moment of scoring a 96th minute winner, haring down the touchline to celebrate in his smart shoes before comedically slipping over onto the turf.

In the space of a minute, Watford fans had transitioned from sheer and utter heartbreak to jubilation and unrivalled euphoria - and the visiting contingent had experienced the exact opposite. It was play-off football like you've never seen before, and likely play-off football that you'll never see again.

That is football.

Gianfranco Zola celebrates reaching the Championship play off final | Michael Regan/Getty Images

What happened next?

Watford would have to wait until the following season to taste promotion, losing to Crystal Palace at Wembley 15 days later. The Hornets gained automatic promotion in the 2013/14 season and enjoyed a five-year stay in the top flight before their relegation in 2019/20 - although their time in the second division was short-lived, bouncing straight back up.

Leicester have enjoyed a much sweeter road since their hearts were broken at Vicarage Road. The Foxes were also promoted to the top flight the following season - winning the Championship - and famously lifted the Premier League title two years later. Since then, they've established themselves as perennial challengers to the 'top six', becoming regular contenders for Champions League qualification under Brendan Rodgers.

Source: 90min