Southampton promoted to Premier League with 1-0 playoff win over Leeds


Soccer Football - Championship - Play-Off Final - Leeds United v Southampton - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - May 26, 2024 Southampton's Flynn Downes, Che Adams and Ryan Fraser celebrate after winning the Championship Play-Off final REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

LONDON (Reuters) -Southampton won promotion back to the Premier League by beating Leeds United 1-0 in the Championship playoff final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, earning an immediate return to England’s top tier in a game considered the richest in world football.

Adam Armstrong was the match-winner as his first-half goal was enough to see off a Leeds side that struggled to muster a meaningful response, with substitute Daniel James coming closest when his shot hit the bar late in the second half.

Southampton join Championship winners Leicester City and runners-up Ipswich Town in the Premier League next season, the latter promoted after a 22-year absence from the top flight, while the Foxes, like Saints, went up at the first attempt.

Southampton got the decisive goal after 24 minutes when Armstrong latched onto a through ball by Will Smallbone and slid it past keeper Illan Meslier for his 24th goal of the season.

"What a way to go up," Armstrong told Sky Sports. "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."

Promotion means Saints are set to receive a windfall of at least 140 million pounds ($178.36 million), according to analysis from Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.

This could rise to more than 305 million pounds if Martin's side avoid relegation after their first season back in the Premier League, Deloitte said.

"I feel really emotional. I feel overwhelmed by the love and support I've had," Saints boss Russell Martin told Sky Sports.

Martin, who played under Leeds manager Daniel Farke at Norwich City, only took the reins at the start of the season following Saints' relegation from the Premier League.

He will now manage in the top flight for the first time after previous stints at Swansea City and MK Dons.

CAGEY AFFAIR

The rewards on offer resulted in a cagey affair with a lack of clear chances and Southampton would have been pleased to see Leeds substitute Italy winger Wilfried Gnonto and Championship Player of the Year Crysencio Summerville in the second half.

Nine minutes of stoppage time gave Farke's trailing Yorkshire side hope and they huffed and puffed but failed to break down the excellent Saints defence.

"We're suffering a lot," Farke told the post-match press conference. "Congratulations to Southampton. They defended really, really well. Today they were effective."

Saints, who ended fourth in the Championship one place behind Leeds, beat West Bromwich Albion 3-1 on aggregate in their playoff semi-final having drawn the first leg 0-0.

They finished nine points off the automatic promotion places in a season that included a 22-game unbeaten league run after four consecutive defeats in September.

It was Saints’ third victory over Leeds during the campaign, having beaten them both times in the league during the regular season, including a 2-1 away victory on the final day.

($1 = 0.7849 pounds)

(Reporting by Samuel Indyk; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Ken Ferris)

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