Southampton overturned a deficit to defeat Sheffield United and finish their Premier League campaign on a high.
The early stages offered little in the way of entertainment, as goalscoring opportunities proved to be scarce.
James Ward-Prowse’s free-kick delivery from deep offered a brief glimmer of hope for the Saints, but the ball was hooked clear before Jannik Vestergaard could pounce.
Sheffield United then threatened immediately after, but Oli McBurnie’s close-range effort was blocked before it could trouble Alex McCarthy.
As the pace of the encounter began to pick up, Southampton saw appeals for a penalty dismissed before the Blades launched a swift counter-attack. Billy Sharp raced through on goal but was thwarted in impressive fashion by Saints stopper McCarthy.
It was then Southampton’s turn to threaten and Chris Basham had to be alert to block a low drive from Oriol Romeu, who capitalised on a loose ball inside the box.
However, it was the visitors that eventually broke the deadlock. Enda Stevens’ teasing cross caused uncertainty in the box and John Lundstram was on hand to convert after the Saints defence failed to clear.
Having denied Sharp at point blank range early on, McCarthy was forced to bail the Saints out again with a tremendous save from Lundstram’s powerful strike.
Southampton, rallied by coming dangerously close to conceding a second, countered quickly and Danny Ings was unlucky to see his shot ricochet off the legs of Jack Robinson.
The hosts continued to search for a leveller, and a marauding run from Nathan Redmond left several defenders chasing but the winger failed to provide the required end product.
HALF-TIME: Southampton 0-1 Sheffield United
The hosts started the second-half brightly, and it did not take long for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side to draw level. Che Adams utilised his pace to get in behind the Blades defence before rifling beyond Dean Henderson at the goalkeeper’s near post.
Some neat build-up play gave Southampton another opportunity shortly after the equaliser, but substitute Will Smallbone found the wrong side of the crossbar with his speculative strike from the edge of the box.
Although the Saints had emerged from the break as the sharper side, Sheffield United very much remained in contention. Sharp received an opportunity to make amends for his first-half miss on the hour mark but failed to restore the visitors’ advantage. McCarthy recklessly passed the ball into the path of Sharp under little pressure, but hesitation by the striker enabled Oriol Romeu to recover and make a superb sliding tackle.
As the second-half progressed, more opportunities were presented to both sides in what became a stretched game. The ball fell at the feet of Danny Ings inside the box, but Robinson was on hand to throw himself in front of the in-form forward’s shot.
Southampton eventually took the lead following a spell of sustained pressure with twenty minutes remaining on the clock. Kyle Walker-Peters surged forward and saw his shot blocked, but Adams was alert to reach the rebound first and his thunderous strike found the target.
Showing no desire to merely protect their lead, the Saints continued to threaten and were awarded a penalty when Ings was felled inside the box. The forward stepped up to blast beyond Henderson, taking him within a goal of Jamie Vardy’s chart-topping goal tally.
FULL-TIME: Southampton 3-1 Sheffield United
Southampton: McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Stephens, Vestergaard, Bertrand, Armstrong (Smallbone 30’), Ward-Prowse (c), Romeu (Obafemi 90+1’), Redmond, Adams (Long 85’), Ings.
Unused substitutes: Gunn, Vokins, Bednarek, Danso, Valery.
Sheffield United: Henderson, Basham (Norwood 80’), Egan, Robinson, Baldock, Lundstram, Berge, Fleck, Stevens, McBurnie (Zivkovic 52’), Sharp (c) (Clarke 70’).
Unused substitutes: Jagielka, Freeman, Osborn, Moore, Rodwell.