Our Albion correspondent Patrick Gleeson reports on the Seagulls’ semi-final disappointment
Albion crashed out of the play-offs as a Wilfried Zaha double put Crystal Palace through to the final where they will play Watford for a shot at the Premier League.
Zaha had scored just one goal since his move to Manchester United was confirmed in January but he broke the deadlock in the 69th minute and then wrapped up the game with two minutes to play.
After the 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park in the first-leg of the fixture the game continued in a cagey fashion with both sides being forced to shoot from distance. David Lopez tried his luck twice in quick succession from outside the area but was unable to hit the target, whilst Dean Hammond drilled his strike narrowly past Julian Speroni’s post.
Owen Garvan also tried his luck with a fizzing shot but Tomasz Kuszczak was positioned well to collect the ball.
The visitors upped their game in the second period and Albion couldn’t handle it. When the ball broke from a David Lopez free kick four Palace players rapidly closed in on goal, but when Zaha played a through-ball to Jonathan Williams the Welshman could only strike wide.
Gus Poyet introduced Ashley Barnes in place of Andrea Orlandi after the Spaniard took a knock, and the change almost paid off immediately when his first touch was pushed onto the crossbar and from the resulting corner his header was nodded off the line.
It wasn’t long, though, that the visitors came back into the tie and when Yannick Bolasie whipped a cross to the far post Zaha slipped away from Wayne Bridge and nodded past Kuszczak.
As the atmosphere intensified Ian Holloway’s side stood tall and repelled everything that came their way, and they soon got their rewards when Zaha cleverly turned away from Gordon Greer and fired the Eagles to Wembley much to the dismay of the 27,500+ home fans in attendance.