Southampton overturned a half-time deficit for only the second time this season to end their Premier League campaign with victory over Sheffield United.
Che Adams scored twice and Danny Ings netted from the penalty spot as Saints claimed only their sixth home win of the season at St Mary’s.
Ings began the game in the hunt for the Premier League golden boot, and with five minutes remaining, he moved to within one goal (22) of Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy (23).
The Southampton striker had his opportunities to draw level with compatriot Vardy in the second half, but his selfless approach created better chances for his team-mates.
John Lundstram had opened the scoring from close range as the visiting Blades controlled the first half.
Victory for Saints sees them end the season in 11th place, while Sheffield United drop to ninth in the table – still their highest finish in the Premier League era.
Saints’ recovery papers over poor home record
Southampton have enjoyed an excellent end to the season since Project Restart, losing just once in nine matches, but there were signs in the first half to suggest why their home form has been so disappointing.
Only bottom club Norwich have picked up fewer points and scored fewer goals (19) at home than Saints (21), and the hosts found it difficult to penetrate their well-organised opponents early on.
But with individuals like Danny Ings, who has finished joint second with Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the race for the golden boot, Ralph Hasenhuttl has a real threat in his side.
Chasing the accolade for the top goalscorer in the country, Ings put the team before his personal ambitions, and it was the improving Adams who benefited after scoring his third goal in the last two matches.
Adams has had a difficult start to life in the Premier League after moving to Saints from Championship side Birmingham City last summer – scoring just two goals in his first 29 appearances – but he showed predatory instincts to latch onto the loose ball and slot past Henderson for the equaliser.
The 24-year-old demonstrated similar composure with the second as he took a neat touch inside the penalty area before firing the ball into the corner.
Ings got his goal from the spot as he fell just short in his pursuit of the golden boot, but together with Adams next season, Saints have an attack that is capable of making St Mary’s more of a fortress.
Disappointing end to excellent Premier League return
For 45 minutes, Sheffield United were dominant and should have put the game beyond their hosts.
Lundstram marked his return to the side with a well-taken finish after Jannik Vestergaard failed to clear the ball, and the Blades midfielder could have scored again later in the first half but he was denied by an excellent Alex McCarthy save.
Billy Sharp also had a great chance early on having got away from his marker, but McCarthy spread himself well and completed a smart save with his feet.
Ultimately, the Blades season will not be defined by this final day defeat, and a ninth place finish in their first top flight season since 2007 is a terrific achievement.
Chris Wilder could be in line for the manager of the season award but a sixth away game without victory will be a concern, and he will have to strengthen his squad over the coming weeks if his side’s second term in the Premier League is to be as successful.
Man of the match – Che Adams (Southampton)
‘Southampton were ruthless in our box’ – what they said
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl told BBC Sport: “I saw a team in the second half that is really showing how every part of their game is developing. We had strong offensive moments, and solutions against these teams is not easy, but we deserved this win.
“It is important for him [Che Adams] and for us. I was very happy for all the guys playing up front. Danny [Ings] was looking for the pass and was not egotistical and Che is the one that has scored.
“We now have a short pre-season and then hopefully we can build on the performances we have made in these last few games.”
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder told BBC Sport: “We should have been comfortably up in the game but we have missed some golden chances. They were ruthless in our box and we weren’t in theirs. In the last 25 minutes, they were comfortably the better side but the game should have been out of sight.
“We have lost a game of football and that is the feeling I have. It looked like a second half too far for the players. We have finished ninth against some really good teams which we can proud of but we wanted to finish on a high.
“We have to recruit right and we have to invest. First season back in the Premier League for a long time and our long-suffering supporters would have enjoyed it. Southampton have finished below us and they have some fantastic footballers which shows how tough a challenge it is.”
Saints’ run continues – the stats
- Southampton have gone unbeaten in seven consecutive Premier League games (W4 D3) within the same season for the first time since November 2013 (eight).
- Sheffield United end the 2019-20 season having lost three straight Premier League games for the first time since April 2007.
- This was the third time Southampton won a Premier League game in which they conceded the first goal this season (also v Watford in Nov 2019 and Leicester in Jan 2020); they only did so twice in 2017-18 and 2018-19 combined before this campaign.
- John Lundstram has scored his first away goal in the Premier League, and his second on the road in all league competitions for Sheffield United after September 2017 against Nottingham Forest in the Championship.
- Only strikers Oli McBurnie and Lys Mousset (both six) have scored more Premier League goals this season for Sheffield United than midfielder John Lundstram (five).
- Che Adams has scored in back-to-back Premier League games having only scored in one of his first 28 appearances in the competition for Southampton before this. Indeed, he netted his first league brace since February 2019 for Birmingham against Blackburn.
- Danny Ings scored his 22nd Premier League goal of the season, to finish second behind Jamie Vardy (23); only Matt Le Tissier (25 in 1993-94) and James Beattie (23 in 2002-03) have ever scored more in a campaign in the competition for Southampton.