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Championship play-off final 2024: Armstrong goal gives Southampton lead over Leeds

Armstrong's 24th goal of the season put Saints in front at Wembley

Wembley Stadium football ground

Adam Armstrong made it three goals in three matches against Leeds United this season to put Southampton on course for the Premier League with the opener in the 24th minute of the Championship play-off final 2024.

Striker Armstrong found space behind Leeds’ defence to latch on to Will Smallbone’s threaded pass and slot coolly past advanced goalkeeper Illan Meslier.

The goal broke the deadlock in an even start to the game which is routinely dubbed the most lucrative in football because of the reward it provides of a place in the top flight.

“We’ve been waiting for that; Armstrong has made 10 or 15 runs like that without getting the ball,” former Saints midfielder Jo Tessem told BBC Radio Solent.

“Smallbone does well; Armstrong turns well. Brilliant play. It’s forward, attacking thinking – that’s how you win football games.”

Southampton v Leeds: Goal ‘brilliant’

In his first season in charge, Southampton manager Russell Martin has been praised for the heavily possession-based style his team has adopted but faced criticism over their occasional inability to find accompanying ruthlessness.

Leeds amassed 90 points under head coach Daniel Farke but finished third behind champions Leicester City and an Ipswich Town side who secured back-to-back promotions.

Former Wolves striker Don Goodman was not impressed with the Whites’ defending. “Adam Armstrong is in acres of space,” he observed on Sky Sports Football. “What are the defence doing?

“That’s a remarkable situation that Leeds United have got themselves into. He knows he’s onside – it’s a brilliant, clinical finish from a man on top of his game.”

Southampton had held on to their advantage with reasonable comfort by half-time at Wembley Stadium, restricting their opponents to a single attempt on target.

With added time approaching, Meslier had to be at full stretch to push Armstrong’s low drive out following a clever free-kick routine.

Southampton beat West Bromwich Albion to reach the final and boost their hopes of an immediate return to the Premier League, which Leeds are also hoping to achieve after seeing off Norwich City in the play-off semi-finals.

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Ben Miller

Ben has more than 10 years' experience in sports journalism, covering two EURO tournaments, European club competitions, the Premier League, EFL and WSL and a variety of other major sporting events.