MX23RW : Thursday, June 24 20:48:48| >> :600:891658:891658:

Xisco Munoz "a little sad" as Watford fans celebrate promotion from home

Xisco Munoz
© Reuters
The Hornets secured an instant return to the Premier League with victory over Millwall.

Watford manager Xisco Munoz declared he was both delighted and a little sad after leading the Hornets back to the Premier League.

The delight came courtesy of Ismaila Sarr's first-half penalty that earned a 1-0 win over Millwall and meant the hopes of both Brentford and Bournemouth of pipping them to an automatic promotion slot were dashed once and for all.

The sadness was the result of no fans being present at Vicarage Road to join in the celebrations, although quite a few could be heard outside the ground.

Xisco Munoz celebrates on the touchline
Xisco Munoz celebrates on the touchline (Tess Derry/PA)

"I want to say thank you to everyone for their support because today is the day for our fans, who have given us a lot of support on social media," he said.

"Now is the moment for us to enjoy because we worked very hard to go up. I miss the fans. I was a little sad when we finished the game because if our fans had been at the stadium it would have been an amazing moment.

"They can enjoy at home because we are in the Premier League now."

Xisco was quickly drenched in beer by his players after the final whistle but also found time to Facetime his family back in Spain – his wife, six-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.

"I have been away from my kids for six months and it is very hard sometimes to be without the family," he said. "For me it is very nice when I can go back home.

"I finished the game immediately and spoke to them. My daughter always asks me why her father never picks her up from school, so today I am very happy because although I have missed spending time with them I have a big dream in my life."

Watford had to hang on to the 11th-minute lead that Sarr gave them when Billy Mitchell's mistimed challenge earned the Hornets a penalty.

That turned out to be their only clear-cut chance, with Millwall keeping Hornets keeper Daniel Bachmann busy at the other end. Mason Bennett hit the bar after Mitchell had forced the Austrian into a save, and the Lions were always dangerous from set-pieces.

It was Watford's day however, and especially Xisco's as the former Valencia winger had been a surprise choice to replace Vladimir Ivic when the Serb was sacked in December.

Watford players celebrate promotion
Watford players celebrate promotion (Tess Derry/PA)

Watford were fifth at the time, but Xisco's smiling personality helped the Hornets develop into deserved occupants of the automatic slots alongside Norwich.

Millwall manager Gary Rowett believed his injury-hit team had been the better side on the day, and it was hard to argue against that.

"We gave a silly penalty away," he said. "Billy has got to learn not to be so rash, but he is a terrific young player with a bright future.

"For about 15 minutes after that it looked as though we felt a bit sorry for ourselves, but we worked hard to try to get back into the game.

Mason Bennett in action for Millwall
Gary Rowett felt Millwall were the better team (Tess Derry/PA)

"After the first 20 minutes I thought we were excellent and we were probably the better side from thereon. Just that little bit of quality was missing.

"Good luck to Watford, they have got Premier League quality players and deserve to go up, and sometimes when you lose a game you have to look at yourselves honestly, but I don't think we could have done much more than we did."

The Lions were hit hard by Covid-19 cases as well as injuries over the course of the season, and Rowett would be content with a top-10 finish as a result.

"It has been a strange season like no other," he said. "I missed three games, six or seven players got it and for a spell of two or three games we were miles off it physically.

"We had two players with broken feet, two players with broken toes and two dislocated shoulders, but we could still finish in the top 10 and the players deserve credit for that."

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