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Gianfranco Zola reflects on Watford's dramatic win over Leicester City
His ‘Jose Mourinho moment’ may have ended with him on his backside, but by his own admission, Gianfranco Zola was not in control of his emotions. Very few inside Vicarage Road were.
“You saw me hey; I thought I would get away with it,” Zola admitted when asked about his tumble whilst celebrating Troy Deeney’s deciding goal.
“I don’t feel anything right now but I have probably pulled something and it will no doubt come tomorrow morning.
“I just lost it. I don’t even know where I was going. I don’t know whether I was chasing Troy or someone else.
“That is football. I felt younger making that run.”
“That is the passion,” he continued. “I said to myself that I have to be composed and respectful but when it happens, you can’t control it. That is why we love this game.”
It was an incredible turn of events.
In the dying moments of the match, Anthony Knockaert was all set to fire Leicester City into the Championship play-off final after the winger went down, following minimal contact by Marco Cassetti.
But a superb double save from Manuel Almunia allowed Cassetti to smash the ball clear. It was controlled expertly by Ikechi Anya, who headed up the right wing before releasing Fernando Forestieri. The forward’s deep cross was nodded down by Jonathan Hogg and Deeney fired the ball emphatically into the back of Leiceister’s net. Then hysteria.
The drama was unbelievable, in the literal sense.
Surely a once in a lifetime string of events?
But what makes today even more incredible, is that it comes just two weeks after almost identical circumstances in a game between Brentford and Doncaster Rovers, which was also refereed by Michael Oliver.
A bizarre coincidence which provided Zola with hope following Almunia’s penalty save.
He said: “There was a reaction straight away because it was a soft penalty in a game like that – very soft penalty.
“It came to me; in the last two months, how many times have we complained about penalties we haven’t received and they were clearer penalties than that?
“I am sorry because I know I should be celebrating – and I am celebrating – but it is good I say this because it would have been unfair for my team to lose the game because of that.
“We didn’t want to give up and I didn’t give up. I stopped complaining and Manu (Almunia) did the rest. He made an unbelievable save and then the second save.
“As we cleared the box and I saw the ball travelling towards our strikers, the film of Brentford’s game came to me; when they conceded against Doncaster. I had that movie in my mind and I was spot on.
“Obviously it was a good cross in and a header back by Jonathan Hogg and the finish from Troy was as good as it could be.”
Today was surely one of the best days in Zola’s career and one which he thoroughly enjoyed.
But the Italian is not renowned for being one of football’s nice guys for no reason and he started his post-match press conference by paying tribute to his opposite number Nigel Pearson.
Zola said: “Well before I talk about the game, I would like to pay respect to my colleague Nigel. He has been a gentleman on and off the pitch so my thoughts go to him and his team.
“Both of these teams deserve to go up because they did very well.
“So my thoughts are for him right now. It could have been us in the end. Sometimes football can be cruel.
“Obviously I am very happy for myself but I have a lot of respect for the man.
“Sorry about starting with that but it was due.”
There will be further reaction from Zola and the Watford players in the coming days.
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