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Leeds 0-1 Southampton: Championship play-off final 2024 result is heaven for Saints

Russell Martin guided Southampton to promotion in his first season in charge

The Wembley Stadium home of the England football team

Southampton secured an immediate return to the Premier League in manager Russell Martin’s first season in charge by beating Leeds United in the Championship play-off final 2024 courtesy of Adam Armstrong’s first-half goal.

Striker Armstrong found space behind Leeds’ defence to latch on to Will Smallbone’s threaded pass and score his 24th goal of the season in the 24th minute at Wembley Stadium, coolly slotting past advanced goalkeeper Illan Meslier.

Leeds had amassed 90 points during the regular season to finish third behind champions Leicester City and Ipswich Town, but Daniel Farke’s side produced only one shot on target before a late rally sparked by Dan James arrowing a shot against the crossbar with six minutes remaining.

Electric substitute James then made Alex McCarthy paw his fizzing low shot away during nine minutes of added time, but Leeds could not find a reply as their own hopes of a return to the top flight following their relegation in 2022/23 were dashed.

Armstrong had come close to a second during first-half added time, forcing Meslier to stop his angled shot at full stretch after breaking free following a clever free-kick routine.

“I don’t know what to say,” the 27-year-old told Sky Sports Football. “It’s what we’ve been working for all year; we know how good the Championship has been.

“What a way to go up. I saw the space in behind and I knew if I put it across goal it was going to go in, so it was a nice one. It means everything.

“The gaffer and his staff came in in pre-season and put a marker down of what they wanted to see, and look at this. This is why we’re footballers: we want to be involved in the biggest games. What a way to win.”

Leeds v Southampton: Farke says United ‘suffered’

Farke congratulated Southampton but said Leeds had deserved more. “That’s football,” he reflected. “We had more possession, more shots, more expected goals.

“We dominated the game in many spells but their defending was a little bit more effective than us. It’s always important to be good in both boxes.

“We started the game totally on the front foot and had many good situations but in the final third, we were not that committed to the attack. At this level, when you play in a final, you have to be spot on.

“It’s a bit written in the stars – sometimes it’s not meant to be. It’s a difficult day for us. A day of suffering but that’s football. You have to get on with it.”

Picture of Ben Miller

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.