ALEX McCARTHY’S brave save with his head denied West Ham victory and leave Ralph Hasenhuttl breathing a sigh of relief in his living room.
The England keeper somehow managed to get in the way Said Benrahma’s close range shot to earn a point for Southampton with boss Hasenhuttl self isolating at home a mile away.
A positive test in the manager’s household kept him away from St Mary’s, forcing him to try to take charge via a video link-up, passing on his thoughts to his dugout on the phone.
And though his side did little to suggest they were going to win the game, they did at least frustrate a West Ham team who grew stronger as the game went on.
The absence of a manager is never a good thing, but if Hasenhuttl needed any comfort going into the game he only needed look at his opponents.
For when David Moyes was forced into isolation having contracted coronavirus, the Hammers actually won three matches while he was absent.
How both managers went into this game was very different, with Saints being able to field close to their strongest eleven barring the absence of the injured Jannik Vestergaard in defence.
Hasenhuttl had the advantage of knowing their next game is not until Monday at home to leaders Liverpool.
But there was no such comfort for Moyes, with his team taking on Everton on Friday knowing the Toffees will be suitably rested following the cancellation of their clash with Manchester City.
It meant the Scot made five changes, with Andriy Yarmolenko in for his first start of the season and Craig Dawson making his debut three months after signing from Watford.
Saints started as though they wanted to make the most of any uncertainty in the London team, and thought they had opened the scoring within six minutes.
Che Adams fed Danny Ings, who skipped past two challenges and fired into the bottom corner – but a belated flag ruled his team-mate had been offside in the build-up.
Gradually, though, West Ham got to the pace of the game and with their organised shape they were making it difficult for Saints to create anything purposeful going forward.
Set pieces looked to be a good option for the visitors to threaten, and Dawson’s eyes lit up when a ball dropped loose just outside the six yard box.
The defender took a huge swipe at an attempted volley, only for Adams to fall in front of him and cop a right foot in the back of the head for his troubles.
Though the game was fall of endeavour it was lacking in genuine quality or chances – and the first attempt on target from any team finally came four minutes from the break.
Yarmolenko’s cross was nodded back by Pablo Fornals and Ryan Fredericks stole in to head tamely into the hands of Alex McCarthy in the Saints goal.
And in the final action of the opening half, the Hammers squandered a great chance to break the deadlock when Aaron Cresswell’s cross found him in space in the area.
The Argentine spun sharply eight yards out be sent his shot high over the bar when he should at least have made McCarthy work.
With little happening from either side in the first third of the second half, Moyes opted to throw on Said Benrahma in an attempt to find a creative edge badly missing.
But it was Saints who carved out the first real chance, when Theo Walcott found himself in space and tried his luck from fully 25-yards with a dipping shot which Lukasz Fabianski did well to save full stretch diving to his right.
The Polish keeper then had to be alert to plunge down to collect Kyle Walker-Peters’ low shot after the full-back cut inside on his left foot.
On 72 minutes, another set-piece gave West Ham the chance to score, but Tomas Soucek met Declan Rice’s cross with a header which bounced down into the ground before looping into the arms of McCarthy.
Then with six minutes left the chance came for the Hammers to snatch all three points through Benrahma – only for McCarthy to somehow get his hand to deny the Algerian from six yards.
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