Patrick Bamford’s 16th Premier League goal of the season helped Leeds United defeat Southampton in front of 8,000 fans at St Mary’s Stadium.
Bamford, who had earlier missed a chance when he only had goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to beat, flicked the ball into the net following Rodrigo’s ball over the Saints defence.
Leeds added a second in injury time when they countered and Bamford’s strike was parried by McCarthy, with Tyler Roberts converting the rebound.
Southampton’s best chance came early on but Che Adams’ header was tipped over by Leeds goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.
The victory takes Leeds up above Arsenal and Everton into eighth and guarantees Marcelo Bielsa’s side a top-10 finish.
Southampton remain 14th in the Premier League with one game of the season remaining.
Bamford’s goal, where he squeezed his shot past McCarthy from a tight angle, was a rare moment of quality in a scrappy, but entertaining match on a day where fans returned to Premier League grounds.
This was only the third time supporters had been at a Southampton home game in 2020-21, after 2,000 of them watched the 3-0 win over Sheffield United on 13 December and then the 1-0 loss to Manchester City six days later.
But they went home disappointed as Bamford scored one and made one to continue Leeds’ fantastic season.
After winning the Championship in 2019-20, which ended a 16-season absence from the top flight, Marcelo Bielsa‘s Leeds side have won many admirers with their attacking brand of football.
This win means they could become only the 15th team since the Premier League started in 1992-93 to finish in the top nine after winning promotion the previous season.
And the season could even end in European qualification, although they need results to go their way.
If Leeds gain a big win at home against West Brom, seventh-placed West Ham lose both of their last two games and Everton and Arsenal do not record another win, then Bielsa’s side can grab seventh and a spot in next season’s newly-formed Europa Conference League.
For 27-year-old Bamford, uncapped by England, a fine season has now taken him joint-fifth in the Premier League goal charts, only behind Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (both on 22 goals), Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes (18 goals) and Tottenham’s Son Heung-min (17 goals).
Despite a downpour just before kick-off, the game began in bright sunshine on the south coast and the spectators helped create a great atmosphere.
Leeds goalkeeper Casilla was handed only his second Premier League start, while Bielsa kept his pre-match promise and left out Germany defender Robin Koch and Poland midfielder Mateusz Klich as they prepare for this summer’s delayed Euro 2020.
Casilla was instantly called into the action as he had to tip over a header from Adams in only the second minute.
Before the game, it was announced that Theo Walcott had agreed to sign for the Saints on a two-year permanent contract when his loan deal from Everton finishes and the ex-England winger had a good chance to open the scoring.
He took the ball around Casilla in the penalty area, although the Spaniard forced him wide – and from a tight angle Walcott had to pass, with no Southampton player on the end of his cross.
Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl brought on top scorer Danny Ings at half-time and James Ward-Prowse, who received the Player of the Year award before the game, skimmed the crossbar at the start of the second half.
Leeds did not have a shot on target in the first half, but grew into the game after the break and gave Saints a warning when Bamford burst through and was one-on-one with McCarthy only to take the ball too wide and run out of room.
The striker then collided with Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu and needed treatment, but he recovered and then steered in the game’s first goal, through McCarthy’s legs, in the 73rd minute.
Ings, like Bamford a contender for England’s Euro 2020 squad this summer, had a chance to grab an equaliser but missed and the hosts were caught on the counter-attack with McCarthy parring Bamford’s strike for Roberts to grab his first goal of the season in injury time.
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