Midfielder Luka Milivojevic saw his dreams of captaining Crystal Palace at Wembley ended this season – but admitted his biggest disappointment was for the club’s fans.
A 79th-minute winner from Andre Gray saw Watford defeat the Eagles 2-1 in the quarter-final on Saturday after Palace had drawn level in the 62nd minute through Michy Batshuayi, cancelling out Etienne Capoue’s first-half strike.
“It’s very disappointing [to lose] especially because of our fans – we had a big wish to bring them to Wembley,” said the Serbian to Palace TV.
“We didn’t create a lot of clear-cut chances [to win] but they didn’t either. Before Michy’s goal we had a chance, with Max Meyer’s header at a corner and then [Aaron] Wan-Bissaka’s in the end, and a few more shots as well.
“We controlled most of the possession in the second half, playing mostly in their half, but the second goal [we conceded] was very cheap and it put us down [mentally]. We pushed and had a few good chances and tried in the end to change, to score one more to go to extra time, but we didn’t have luck and in the end we lost.
“I’m very disappointed, especially for the fans.”
In recent seasons, Watford vs Palace games have seen a lot of needle – not least involving Wilfried Zaha, who was not named in the squad on Saturday due to injury – and there was again in this one as the Palace captain himself was on the end of an apparent elbow after tangling with Gerard Deulofeu, but it went unnoticed and unpunished by the officials, despite being on the touchline by the fourth official.
“He [hit] me with his elbow in my chest and I felt a lot of pain in that moment,” said Milivojevic, who required lengthy treatment after the incident. “I don’t say on purpose that he wants or doesn’t want [to do it] but in the moment I felt very bad, I felt a lot of pain and I couldn’t breathe – I went down and that’s what happened.”
Going down is something the Eagles can concentrate on avoiding now as Roy Hodgson’s side focus on their final Premier League run-in, lying just a win or two away from mathematical safety in the table. There is an international break before a crucial clash against Huddersfield Town at Selhurst Park on March 30.
Milivojevic said: “It would have been amazing if we had won [against Watford] and then had two weeks in a very good mood to prepare for our next eight games until the end of the season,” he said.
“But what can we do? We cannot control those kind of things, we lost, and now we are turning to just the Premier League.
“From these eight [remaining] games we have to try to take as much as we can, stay in the league and reach the best position in the end.”