Sunday, June 16, 2024

Leeds 0-1 Southampton: What Were The Main Talking Points As The Saints Secure An Automatic Premier League Return At Wembley?

Tom Dunstan in Editorial, English Championship 27 May 2024

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Putting in what was a season-defining performance on Sunday afternoon, Southampton scored an immediate Premier League return as they clinched a 1-0 victory against Leeds at Wembley.

Earning in the region of £140million following Sunday’s play-off final win in north London, it was attacking talisman Adam Armstrong who proved to be the Saints’ hero as the 27-year-old produced a slick finish midway through the first-half.

While Russell Martin’s men might have finished three points behind Leeds in the final Championship standings, the Saints caused their fellow play-off finalists plenty of issues and were a deserving winner.

With emotional scenes among Southampton’s camp following the full-time whistle, Southampton following Leicester and Ipswich in planning for lie back among England’s elite.

Although Leeds might have opened 2024 pencilled in as a real top-two contender, the Lilywhites have really limped their way over the finishing line and suffered major heartbreak in north London.

Now preparing for another campaign in the Championship, Leeds have also lost all of their previous three finals at Wembley without scoring a single goal.

On an afternoon when Southampton officially secured their immediate Premier League return, we have taken a look at the key talking points.

Southampton secure an immediate Premier League return

Although Martin might have found some mounting pressure on his shoulders back in September as Southampton suffered four Championship defeats on the bounce, the former Swansea boss has seen his squad come roaring back in a sensational fashion.

While some around St. Mary’s might have thought that Martin’s stint on the South Coast could be a brief one, the Saints embarked on a record-breaking 25-game unbeaten run that propelled them into automatic promotion contention.

Gaining a real reputation for their free-flowing approach under the one-time Norwich defender, Southampton continued to receive a string of praise from across the Championship this season and they were certainly a more than deserving winner here.

With smart recruitment at the heart of their success this season and watching the likes of West Ham loanee Flynn Downes make a major impact since arriving at St. Mary’s, there is no doubt that Sunday’s play-off final victory will be remembered as one of their most iconic days.

Although Martin might be more than aware that his squad faces an almighty step-up in class when they start to make their Premier League plans over the summer, Southampton deserve to steal all of the headlines from Wembley.

Leeds face a major backlash

Although Leeds might have opened the New Year tipped as a leading contender to follow Leicester in securing an immediate top-flight return, Daniel Farke’s men have certainly limped their way over the finishing line.

While the Yorkshire-based outfit might have cruised their way to Wembley on May 16th as they stormed their way to a 4-0 romp at home against Norwich, Leeds failed to use that performance as a platform to build on here.

Signing off their regular-season adventure with a 2-1 loss against Southampton at Elland Road, the Lilywhites recorded just a single victory from any of their final six Championship appearances.

Coming under plenty of scrutiny last month as they slumped to an infamous 4-0 drumming at the hands of relegation scrappers QPR, it is no surprise that some questions will be asked about Farke’s tactics on Sunday afternoon.

Once again unable to call upon ex-England international Patrick Bamford at Wembley and failing to find any kind of fluidity in the final third, the former Norwich boss will also have to juggle some reported financial issues behind the scenes at Elland Road.

It was always going to be Armstrong

Although Blackburn’s Sammie Szmodics might have claimed this season’s Championship Golden Boot, Armstrong has enjoyed a stellar purple patch and has spearheaded Martin’s charge at St. Mary’s.

Proving to be Southampton’s hero at Wembley on Sunday afternoon after producing a smart first-half finish, the 27-year-old has certainly been the poster boy of Martin’s squad this season.

Along with bagging a semi-final brace against West Brom earlier in the month and dragging the Saints to Sunday’s showpiece event, the former England U20 international also notched 26 Championship strikes this year.

With the Saints’ skipper cutting a clearly emotional figure at the final whistle, Armstrong has certainly cemented his spot as a modern era icon at St. Mary’s.

Knowing that he must play another leading role if Southampton are to keep hold of their Premier League status this time around, it is no surprise that Martin’s men are looking to get the ex-Blackburn marksmen tied down to a new deal.

Match Report

Leeds: Meslier, Gray, Rodon, Ampadu, Firpo, Kamara, Gruev, Gnonto, Rutter, Summerville, Piroe

Subs: Anthony, James, Roberts, Joseph

Southampton: McCarthy, Harwood-Bellis, Bednarek, Stephens, Downes, Smallbone, Walker-Peters, Aribo, Fraser, Armstrong, Brooks

Subs: Edozie, Adams, Manning

Goals: Armstrong (24’)

Yellow Cards: Leeds: Ampadu, Summerville – Southampton: Aribo, Fraser, Downes, Bednarek, Harwood-Bellis, Adams

Red Cards: N/A

Referee: John Brooks


Tom Dunstan

Formerly of The Independent, Tom has spent the past six years as one of our senior writers and betting experts. Alongside working with numerous publications from across the globe, Tom also graduated from the University of Falmouth in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Digital Media.
Spending almost the past decade working in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, he has also spent time featuring in sports radio. Tom can be followed on Instagram - @iamtomdunstan



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