Two second half goals from Patrick Bamford and Tyler Roberts secured Leeds a top-half finish at St Mary’s.
Southampton, fresh from their comfortable win over Fulham, made three changes to their starting 11 as Moussa Djenepo and Theo Walcott coming into the side. Walcott – having just signed for the South Coast side on a permanent deal – replaced Nathan Redmond and whilst Stuart Armstrong also missed out. Danny Ings could only make the bench, whilst Nathan Tella made a start at the England hopeful’s expense.
Very little came of the opening ten minutes, with both sides having arguably very little left to play for. With Fulham relegated, Southampton were safe and the European places were, even before kick-off, almost certainly out of reach for Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds.
The first real chance of the game started from a good ball from 21-year-old Tella, who found Saints’ permanent signing Walcott. The winger tried to round the ‘keeper and didn’t take the shot, leading to Liam Cooper being able to save Kiko Casilla’s blushes and clear away.
Southampton, to their credit, limited Leeds to very few clear-cut chances in the first half; over 80% of the possession in the first 30 minutes was in the midfield or the Leeds defensive third. Indeed Southampton nearly took the lead themselves five minutes before half time, with Tella and Che Adams linking up well and the latter slicing a shot towards Casilla, who parried it behind for a corner. Tella’s close range shot from the resulting corner ended up wayward.
With a couple of changes at half-time, including the introduction of Ings from the bench, the Saints really did come close to taking the lead when James Ward-Prowse, voted Southampton’s Player of the Season, struck the cross-bar with a powerful free kick.
Leeds, who had been on the back foot for most of the game, got their first real chance over an hour in. Raphinha cut the ball back past Mohamed Salisu but Alex McCarthy, on his 100th appearance for Southampton, just managed a save with his foot. Ezgjan Alioski was ready to finish the loose ball home, but the Macedonian’s shot was directly at McCarthy’s goal.
Minutes later, though, McCarthy was at fault for Leeds’ first goal. Patrick Bamford was played through by a lobbed ball from Rodrigo, and the Englishman managed to embarrass McCarthy at his near post.
Into stoppage time, with the crowd behind them, Southampton had one final chance as Danny Ings didn’t quite meet the bobble of a loose ball well and he fired wide.
With the final touch of the game, a counter-attack from Leeds ended with a composed finish from Roberts. Bamford took the first shot, saved by McCarthy but the ball fell to Roberts who doubled the West Yorkshire side’s lead.
For Southampton, whilst they may have been grateful for having 8,000 fans back in St Mary’s, it was a showing that despite the quality they can have in games, a lack of clinical finishing and smart defending has led to the Saints being confined to a bottom-half finish. Saints were very much on the beach.
Up next is their final game, a visit to London to face off with West Ham, before a long reflection on what has been a tumultuous season for Southampton.
FT: SOUTHAMPTON 0-2 Leeds United (Bamford 71′, Roberts 90’+5′)
Southampton: McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Stephens, Vestergaard, Salisu, Djenepo, Ward-Prowse, Armstrong, Tella (Redmond 70′), Walcott (Diallo 78′), Adams (Ings 45′). Unused Subs: Forster, Obafemi, Minamino, Bednarek, N’Lundulu. Ferry.
Leeds: Casilla, Ayling, Llorente (Berardi 45′), Cooper, Alioski, Phillips (booked) (Struijk 45′ (booked)), Raphinha, Dallas (booked), Rodrigo (Roberts 78′), Harrison, Bamford. Unused Subs: Meslier, Poveda-Ocampo, Hernandez, Davis, Shackleton, Jenkins.
Wessex Scene Man of the Match: Patrick Bamford (Leeds)
Referee: Peter Bankes.