Watford have been demoted from the Premier League after Crystal Palace won deservedly at Selhurst Park thanks to Wilfried Zaha’s first-half penalty.
The Hornets were 12 points adrift of safety with four games remaining after losing to Burnley last week, and Palace sent their previous boss Roy Hodgson’s team right back down to the Championship with a dominating effort.
The Eagles dominated the game from the start, and Zaha comfortably stroked his 31st-minute penalty past Ben Foster after Hassane Kamara used his arm to stop Michael Olise’s back-post header.
Watford never looked like scoring, and their agony was exacerbated when Kamara, who had already been cautioned for the handball, was sent off for a second yellow card for a shove on Olise.
Watford have been relegated from the Premier League for the second time in three seasons. The Hornets also fell down on the last day of the 2019-20 season before making an instant comeback under Xisco Munoz.
The identity of the coach entrusted with replicating Munoz’s success remains unclear, with Hodgson likely to leave top-level management when his contract at Vicarage Road ends at the conclusion of the season.
Relegation brings a harsh end to Hodgson’s 46-year managerial career, which has encompassed periods at 17 teams, including Palace, in eight nations, as well as four international sides.
Palace’s victory, which brings them within five points of their highest-ever total in a Premier League season, underlined what many Watford supporters had already accepted after last week’s defeat to fellow strugglers Burnley.
While a win at Southampton in March gave them hope of avoiding relegation for the fourth time, a sequence of five consecutive losses before the trip to Selhurst Park largely sealed their fate.
Watford never got off to a good start as Palace grabbed control early on. France Olise, one of five players recalled by Eagles manager Patrick Vieira, set up the home side’s first opportunity after five minutes when Marc Guehi headed his tempting cross over the bar.
Olise was also involved in a pivotal moment in the first half when his header from Eberechi Eze’s left-wing cross hit Watford full-back Kamara’s extended arm.
While Kamara claimed Olise had shoved him in the back, a VAR review maintained the referee’s judgment, enabling Zaha to add to the double he scored in Palace’s 4-1 triumph over Watford in February.
While Watford required two goals, it was Palace who looked to score the game’s second, with Odsonne Edouard nearly scoring a fantastic solo goal shortly after the hour, weaving his way through the visitors’ defense before hitting the post from a close angle.
Palace strolled to win when Kamara was sent off on 68 minutes, ending the game – and Watford’s stint in the league – with a whimper.