Armstrong strike sends Southampton back to the Premier League as Leeds miss out

Southampton secured an immediate return to the Premier League by beating Leeds United 1-0 in the Championship play-off final at Wembley, as the Whites suffered a fourth consecutive play-off final defeat.

As the only side to the double over Leeds during the regular Championship season – including a 2-1 win at Elland Road on the final day – Russell Martin’s Saints entered this clash confident of winning the so-called ‘richest game in football’.

With the stakes so high, very little quarter was given in a cagey first half in which both struggled to establish a foothold, but it was Southampton who drew first blood in the 24th minute.

As Ethan Ampadu pressed into midfield, Will Smallbone took full advantage to slot an incisive pass behind the Welshman into Adam Armstrong, and the lethal striker made no mistake in applying the finishing touch across Illan Meslier to net for the fourth time in three head to heads this season.

The same duo combined for the Saints’ second big chance on the stroke of half-time, as Smallbone’s smartly-worked free-kick caught the Leeds defence napping, but Meslier was equal to Armstrong’s shot this time with a strong save.

Daniel Farke’s men offered very little in attack before the break, managing just two shots in a concerning display that had their half of Wembley fearing yet more play-off heartache.

Opposing centre-backs were at the heart of the action following the restart, with Jack Stephens and Joe Rodon both seeing shots blocked before Crysencio Summerville curled an effort wide from the edge of the area.

For all their possession, Leeds continued to struggle to break down the Southampton rearguard, and the game nearly fell away from them when Samuel Edozie found himself up against Rodon, but the substitute winger cut inside and missed the target with his effort.

The introduction of Daniel James from the bench certainly injected fresh life into Leeds’ attack, and the Wales international was the width of the woodwork from levelling proceedings late on when his volley cannoned off the crossbar.

James was also denied in stoppage time by Alex McCarthy as Farke’s men ultimately fell short, with the play-offs once more proving their undoing after a disastrous end to the league season.

Meanwhile, this victory could inject well over £100 million into Southampton, who return to the top flight after just a single season in the Championship with victory in their first-ever play-off final appearance.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Will Smallbone (Southampton)

Southampton vs Leeds United match stats
Southampton vs Leeds United match statsFlashscore


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