12th May 2013: The best ever finish to a football game?


Seven years ago today, Jonathan Hogg teed up Troy Deeney to smash home a 97th minute volley on the counter, to seal a 3-2 aggregate Watford victory against Leicester in the Championship play-offs semi-final second leg.

The strike that sent his side to Wembley came just twenty seconds after the visitors had seen Anthony Knockaert’s penalty – won by his own dive – and rebound saved by Manuel Almunia at the other end, with the ball never going out of play.

Before those memorable moments at the end of additional time, the score stood level at two-all and the tie appeared to be drifting towards extra time.

Deeney strikes (credit: Talksport)

Leicester had edged the first leg 1-0, in an open game that saw both teams exert spells of pressure and miss great chances before Nugent headed home in the 82nd minute – his first goal since January.

The Foxes had only secured their playoff spot in injury time on the last day – Knockaert grabbing the late winner as they triumphed 3-2 away to Nottingham Forest in a sixth-place decider.

Watford, meanwhile, came into the playoffs having blown automatic promotion. In the top two for much of the season, it was in the league’s top scorer’s hands in their final match.

Drawing 1-1 at home to Leeds, the Hornets knew a winner would send them up; Hull had conceded an injury time equaliser and the Watford game was fifteen minutes behind due to a serious injury. Last minute: 2-1 Leeds.

That disappointment perhaps gave Leicester the edge in the first match, but a quarter of an hour into the second leg Matej Vydra levelled the aggregate score.

Nugent gave Leicester the lead again four minutes later but Watford’s improved performance continued and Vydra scored again midway through the second half, to make it 2-1 on the day and 2-2 overall.

Neither team took too many unnecessary risks in the closing stages and the game seemed to be heading for another half an hour, maybe a shoot-out.

Then, as the four minutes of added time were up, Knockaert dribbled past his full-back to cut inside onto his favoured left foot from the right wing.

He was met in the penalty area by Marco Cassetti and pushed the ball towards the byline.

The Italian defender gave the French winger the softest of hands on the shoulder to mark his run.

But with textbook collapsing knees, dragged toes, flailing arms and a spin onto his back for flair, Knockaert simulated a foul and tricked referee Michael Oliver into wrongly awarding a penalty.

Watford players were rightly incensed as he jumped to his feet and took the spot-kick, after two-minute delay.

To chants of ‘cheat’ from the home supporters, Knockaert’s tame effort down the middle was saved by Almunia’s legs, who then got his body in the way of his equally soft rebound from close range.

Anthony Knockaert can’t hide his devastation after Watford score (credit: Independent)

The ball was hoisted away to halfway by an incoming defender, where Watford managed to bring it down and feed Fernando Forestieri down the right channel as bodies rushed back towards Kasper Schmeichel’s goal.

Forestieri dug out a looping cross to the far post, which the Danish goalkeeper was tempted to come for and got caught underneath – in his father Peter’s trademark ‘make yourself big’ pose – as Hogg headed down.

Hogg’s lay-off bounced just in front of the penalty spot and sat up for an onrushing, unmarked Deeney.

In the blink of an eye, Deeney’s rocket had almost broke the back of the net, his shirt was off and jubilant fans were spilling onto the pitch. Watford were off to Wembley.


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