Saints march past WBA to set up play-off final with Leeds

Southampton will face Leeds in the Championship play-off final as a second-half salvo saw them overcome West Brom 3-1.

Following a goalless draw in the first leg, the Saints prevailed in the second leg at St Mary’s to reach Wembley.

Will Smallbone and Adam Armstrong’s double did the damage in the second half, as they blew the Baggies away late on to settle the semi-final tie.

Cedric Kipre headed in a final-minute consolation for the Baggies, who now face a third successive season in the second tier.

Southampton will face Leeds in the final on Sunday, May 26 – live on Sky Sports Football – with the winner securing promotion to next season’s Premier League.

Saints strike in second half to secure place in final

Southampton dominated the first half at St Mary’s, but the closest they came was when David Brooks clipped the outside of the post following Armstrong’s cross, rarely testing Alex Palmer in the West Brom net.

But the breakthrough was found shortly after half-time. A mistake from Grady Diangana allowed Smallbone in to play a one-two with Brooks, before dashing through the middle and striking an unstoppable effort past Palmer.

Brooks was involved again shortly after as he was chopped down in the box by Kipre, but the referee waved away the penalty protests leaving Southampton, and manager Russell Martin, furious.

But the decision wouldn’t cost Southampton in the end, as Armstrong doubled their lead on 78 minutes, drilling a precise low effort from 14 yards into the bottom corner, before slotting away his second from the penalty spot eight minutes later after Ryan Manning had been brought down in the box.

There would at least be something for the travelling West Brom fans to cheer about late on, as Kipre grabbed a consolation deep into stoppage time.

The goals that took Southampton to Wembley

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Will Smallbone opens the scoring for Southampton with a fantastic strike against West Bromwich Albion in the Championship play-off-semi-final second leg.

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Adam Armstrong scores Southampton’s second against West Brom and edge them closer to the play-off final against Leeds.

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Adam Armstrong seals Southampton’s win against West Brom by scoring their third from the penalty spot as they booked their place at Wembley.

Martin: My players were amazing | I’m so proud of Will Smallbone

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Russell Martin said Southampton got what they deserved and was really proud of his players as Saints beat West Brom 3-1 to progress to the Championship play-off final.

Southampton manager Russell Martin on Sky Sports Football:

“The players were amazing. I’m really proud of them. In the first half we were good, in the second half they were incredible. They freed up a little bit. We made some tweaks to things and they carried it out so well.

“Some of the football was amazing. We were up against a really good team and a top coach in Carlos. But in the end I feel like we got what we deserved.

“Now we have to get there [promotion] for it to mean anything. It all leads into the big one. If we can play with the same courage and intensity as tonight we’ll give ourselves a chance. It’s one we can enjoy tonight and be a bit relieved. But then it’s about getting ready.

“When the fans sing his name I feel emotional for Will [Smallbone]. He’s so desperate to play for his club. It’s his club. He’s had some tough moments in his short career so far.

“He’s an amazing human being, and watching him grow this season has been one of the biggest privileges so far of my managerial career. He’s been so important for us. He’s selfless, he’s a brilliant team-mate and he’s growing in importance all the time.

“He has the capability to be a really top player and I’m proud of him.”

Corberan: Now is the moment to feel the pain

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Carlos Corberan gave his reaction to West Brom’s 3-1 defeat to Southampton in the play-off semi-final and said that his players did not perform to the levels they needed to progress to Wembley.

West Brom manager Carlos Corberan on Sky Sports Football:

“Unfortunately we couldn’t avoid some of the losing of the ball and we conceded the goal from this situation. In general, it’s not just this situation; I don’t think the team felt as comfortable when we weren’t with the ball. We didn’t attack at the level we wanted to attack.

“When these things happen and there is a good team in front of you, you will suffer because good teams use mistakes well.

“Now is the moment to feel the pain. This is the feeling we all have because we had the motivation to go to Wembley. We didn’t want it just to be the play-offs, but it didn’t happen. Now is the moment to finish this season and, from tomorrow, we will start the next one.”

The second leg at St Mary’s in numbers

How Leeds reached the final

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Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final second leg between Leeds United and Norwich City.

The goal scorers: Smallbone & Armstrong

Will Smallbone on Sky Sports Football:

“My goal was just instinctive! What a win. It was a tough game, West Brom are a tough side. The fans were brilliant and they showed up in their numbers, which spurred us on to victory.

“The manager’s put a lot of faith in me this year and I can’t speak highly enough of what he’s done for me and my career. It’s been my dream to be here playing for as long as I can remember and to do it right now is amazing.”

Adam Armstrong on Sky Sports Football:

“It’s amazing and something we’ve been working on all year, to get back to the Premier League. We were gutted we didn’t make the top two, but if we can go up this way, what a way it will be.

“I’m proud of everyone. The way we play is not easy. You’ve seen the way we keep the ball and it’s exciting at times. It paid off today. We had to put a marker down for the final and we’ve done that.”

Warnock: It will be an incredible final

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Neil Warnock reacted to Southampton’s 3-1 win against West Brom in the play-off semi-final and thinks the matchup against Leeds at Wembley will be a great final.

‘The right final makes its way to Wembley’

Sky Sports’ EFL Editor Simeon Gholam:

“Third versus fourth it will be at Wembley, as Southampton set up their date with destiny against Leeds United.

“Fair play to West Brom and Norwich, who both had solid seasons, but on the basis of what we’ve seen over the campaign you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d say we don’t have the right final, with two teams who picked up enough points over the course of the campaign to secure automatic promotion on another day.

“Southampton will maybe feel they have the edge, based on their two wins over Leeds this season – including one just a couple of weeks ago on the final day of the regular campaign at Elland Road.

“But on the day at the national stadium anything can happen, and with so much quality at either end of the pitch it really could go any way.”

What’s next?

Southampton advance to the Sky Bet Championship play-off final, where they will face Leeds at Wembley on Sunday May 26, live on Sky Sports Football.

West Brom will remain in the second tier for the 2024/25 campaign.

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