Southampton secure promotion to Premier League

26 May 2024
Southampton lift trophy

Armstrong strikes Wembley winner against Leeds as Saints seal immediate top-flight return

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Adam Armstrong sealed Southampton's immediate return back to the Premier League with the winning goal as Saints beat Leeds United 1-0 in Sunday's Championship playoff final at Wembley. 

Armstrong, who had scored in both regular Championship matches against Leeds this season - each Southampton wins - was on target again to put Saints 1-0 up with a clinical 24th-minute finish.

Russell Martin's side withstood a spirited Leeds fightback, but held firm to join Leicester City and Ipswich Town in the top flight in 2024/25.

This was Leeds' fourth playoff final, and they have now failed in all of them, having lost their previous three in 1986/87, 2005/06 and 2007/08.

How the match unfolded

Both Leeds and Southampton fielded the same starting XIs that comprehensively got them through their semi-finals against Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion, respectively. 

Leeds, the Championship's highest scorers in the first 15 minutes during 2023/24, started on the front foot and 18-year-old Archie Gray, the youngest player to ever play for the club at Wembley, lashed an effort wide after four minutes.

Gray fires wide v Southampton

Southampton withstood an early Leeds onslaught, and created their first chance on 12 minutes when Will Smallbone's crisp 30-yard free-kick was well saved by goalkeeper Illan Meslier.

Saints began to settle into their groove and Russell Martin's side, who have averaged 66 per cent possession across 2023/24, the highest number across England's top four tiers, went 1-0 ahead after 24 minutes.

Smallbone threaded a sublime pass through to Armstrong and he slipped the ball beyond the onrushing Meslier and into the far corner.

Armstrong scores  v Leeds

It was Armstrong's 24th goal of the season, but also a special moment for Smallbone, who was in the Wembley stands as a Southampton fan in 2010 - aged 10 - when Saints beat Carlisle United 4-1 in the EFL Trophy.

Southampton were forced into a change only six minutes later with David Brooks, who sustained an arm injury after falling awkwardly, replaced by Sam Edozie.

And Saints were only denied a second goal by the quick reactions of Meslier, who was equal to Armstrong's shot on the turn from Smallbone's neat, chipped freekick.

Leeds started the second half determined to become the first team since Leicester in 1995/96 to trail at half-time in the second-tier playoff final and go on to win.

Manchester City loanee Taylor Harwood-Bellis produced a brilliant block to deny Joe Rodon, the ball popped out kindly to Crysencio Summerville and he bent an effort wide of the upright as Daniel Farke's side pressed for an equaliser.

Taylor Harwood-Bellis

Leeds continued to chip away but found Saints' backline impenetrable, and when substitute Dan James did find a way through with six minutes remaining, his dipping effort smacked the crossbar. It was the closest Farke's side were to come as Leeds' playoff final hoodoo struck again.

Southampton, along with fellow promoted teams Leicester and Ipswich, can now look forward to finding out who they will face when the 2024/25 Premier League fixtures are released released at 09:00 BST on Tuesday 18 June. The campaign starts on 17 August.


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