Southampton beat Leeds in the play-off final to return to the Premier League

Southampton secured promotion back to the Premier League after a year in exile as Adam Armstrong sealed a 1-0 win against Leeds in the Championship play-off final on Sunday.

Armstrong’s first-half strike at Wembley secured Southampton’s immediate return to erase the bitter taste of last year’s relegation from the top flight.

Victory in football’s single richest game will net Southampton a windfall of 140 million pounds ($178 million) from increased match-day, broadcast and commercial income for clubs that make it to the Premier League.

Financial experts Deloitte say Southampton could end up spending £305m if they avoid relegation next season.

While the prize money is a huge bonus, it is the prestige of competing with Manchester City and Arsenal, rather than second-tier minnows like Plymouth and Oxford, that has fueled Southampton’s hunger to regain Premier League status after a year in purgatory.

Southampton, whose only major honor is the 1976 FA Cup, spent 11 years in the Premier League before being relegated.

They will be hoping this achievement, celebrated by more than 35,000 of their fans at Wembley, is the prelude to another long spell among the elite.

In their first ever play-off final, Southampton won three times over Leeds this term, despite finishing three points behind the Elland Road club in the regular season.

Saints boss Russell Martin became widely admired for his purist passing principles and that was the 38-year-old’s crowning glory.

Martin was in charge in League One with Milton Keynes Dons just three years ago, but in his first season in charge he transformed Southampton to such an extent that they boasted more possession than any team in Europe’s top five leagues this season.

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“I’m so happy for the board because I wasn’t an exciting appointment for them. I finished 10th at Swansea but we had a really clear way of doing things at MK (Dons) and here so it was really brave for them to take me on,” said Martin.

“We had to do it to justify their decision. I feel really emotional about it.

«The team was so brave. I’m really grateful and proud of them. They deserve it.»

Securing promotion at the expense of Leeds boss Daniel Farke was a sweet moment for Martin after the German terminated his contract at Norwich during their time together at Carrow Road in 2018.

The defeat was a bitter blow for Farke and Leeds, who were relegated last season alongside Southampton.

American socialite Paris Hilton and film star Will Ferrell – the club’s minority shareholder – made good luck videos for Farke’s side, but there was no Hollywood ending for Leeds.

On the 35th anniversary of the death of their legendary manager Don Revie, Leeds were well below their best in the club’s fourth play-off final defeat.

The three-time English champions remain without a win at Wembley since 1992 after losing control of an automatic promotion place, which went to Ipswich instead.

Leeds started quickly but Southampton weathered the storm to take the lead in the 24th minute.

Armstrong scored twice in the play-off semi-final win over West Brom and the forward showed his predatory instincts again with his 24th goal of the season.

Armstrong cleverly avoided the Leeds offside trap with a well-timed run and leveled Will Smallbone’s pass with a superb strike into the far corner from 12 yards.

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Leeds were rattled and Armstrong almost struck again with another instinctive shot from Smallbone’s quick free-kick, but this time Illan Meslier was able to parry away his effort from close range.

Early in the second half, Leeds defender Joe Rodon went on a frantic drive that looked set to end in a goal until Taylor Harwood-Bellis pounced on the final block.

Leeds pushed hard for an equalizer but Daniel James’ shot bounced off the post before the winger was denied by Alex McCarthy’s stop as Southampton celebrated their return to the promised land.

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