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We were one inch from Wembley - Rob Tanner's verdict on Watford v Leicester City


Football isn't just the cruellest of sports – it can be positively sadistic, as Leicester City discovered yesterday.

City didn't just suffer play-off heartbreak, they had their hearts ripped out and dangled in front of their faces before being crushed – all in just 20 amazing seconds.

A week ago they were thanking the football gods for their passage into the play-offs.

Yesterday, they suffered the most excruciating exit after a passage of play that no-one who witnessed it will ever forget.

Anthony Knockaert stood over a penalty in the sixth minute of added time which would have sent City to Wembley and given the club the chance to compete for the £120million on offer to the play-off winners in the Premier League.

The City fans were probably praying to those same footballing gods that the little Frenchman would score.

But the gods turned their back on City as 20 seconds later keeper Kasper Schmeichel was picking the ball out of the net and City's dream was over.

It is tough enough to take for City fans to see their side bow out to such a late winner, for it to come from their own penalty miss is incredible.

Manager Nigel Pearson has spoken before about the fine margins in football, but those margins have never been so small.

Had Knockaert's firmly struck penalty been an inch higher, Manuel Almunia would not have saved it with his feet. One inch!

Comparisons will be made with Knockaert's fellow countryman Yann Kermorgant and his penalty miss that contributed to City missing out on a place at Wembley three years ago, but that would be unfair.

Knockaert had performed superbly and struck his spot kick confidently down the middle, but Almunia was able to save with his feet and then block Knockaert's follow-up.

City didn't have time to contemplate the significance of that moment as Watford broke and the ball was whipped into the box. Jonathan Hogg headed the ball down and Troy Deeney hammered home the winner.

There have been some dramatic moments in City's history, but none like this.

City's lead from the first leg had been wiped out after just 15 minutes when Matej Vydra, who had missed chances in the first game and at the start of the second leg, ghosted in behind the City defence and beat Schmeichel with a superbly struck volley.

But City edged ahead again in the tie when David Nugent, who always scores at Vicarage Road, headed home the equaliser four minutes later from a corner.

City were struggling to cope with Deeney and Vydra in attack and, in the 66th minute, the two combined and Vydra put the Hornets ahead, and level in the tie.

To their credit, City pushed for a winner and when Knockaert was adjudged to have been tripped inside the area by Almen Abdi deep into added time, City were one kick away from Wembley.

But agony was just a kick away too.

Related Content • Article: It will take a long while to get over heartbreak – Leicester City boss Pearson • Article: Watford 3 City 1: Replay live, interactive coverage• Article: Watford's Gianfranco Zola shows respect for Leicester City's Nigel Pearson • Article: Last-gasp winner and the reactions! (Video and Pics) • Article: Play-off ecstasy then agony for Leicester City fans• Pictures: Watford 3 City 1 - Leicester fans at the match • Pictures: Watford 3 City 1 - agony for Leicester fans • Pictures: Watford 3 Leicester City 1 (Agg 3-2)

We were one inch from Wembley - Rob Tanner's verdict on Watford v Leicester City

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