Theo Walcott was denied by a marginal offside call following a VAR review as Southampton were held to a 0-0 draw by Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Fulham had gone nine years without a goalless draw at home in the league stretching 196 games, but Boxing Day’s tepid affair resulted in a second successive stalemate along the River Thames.
Southampton carved out the better chances as Alphonse Areola superbly tipped James Ward-Prowse’s free-kick onto the bar before Che Adams was unable to convert the rebound during the opening half.
Shane Long’s rifled finish was then ruled out for offside on the field before Walcott thought he had earned a fourth away league win for the visitors but his effort from Adams’ cross was ruled out upon VAR review.
The result leaves Fulham still in the relegation zone in 18th place while Aston Villa’s win over Crystal Palace means Southampton drop to eighth ahead of the weekend’s remaining fixtures.
Fulham: Areola (7), Aina (7), Robinson (7), Anderson (6), Adarabioyo (7), Anguissa (7), Reed (6), Lookman (7), Loftus-Cheek (6), Cavaleiro (6), Decordova-Reid (6).
Subs: Kebano (n/a), Mitrovic (n/a).
Southampton: McCarthy (6), Walker-Peters (7), Bertrand (7), Stephens (7), Bednarek (8), Ward-Prowse (7), Diallo (7), Armstrong (6), Walcott (6), Adams (7), Long (6).
Subs: Djenepo (n/a), N’Lundulu (n/a).
Man of the match: Jan Bednarek.
Saints equal club record in drab draw
Fulham were without their manager Scott Parker after a member of his household tested positive for coronavirus on Christmas Eve, meaning Matt Wells and Stuart Gray – the former Saints boss – took charge of the team.
Chances were at a premium during a toothless opening 45 minutes with only three attempts between the two sides, the fewest in any first half in the Premier League this season.
The hosts came close to breaking the deadlock when Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s cross from the right led to Ademola Lookman setting up the unmarked Andre-Frank Anguissa but the midfielder, still without a goal for the club, produced an air-shot when well placed to test Alex McCarthy.
- Fulham made three alterations from their 1-1 draw against Newcastle. On-loan midfielder Mario Lemina was ineligible to face his parent club, while Tom Cairney and Aleksandar Mitrovic were named on the bench. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ivan Cavaleiro and Harrison Reed all started.
- Southampton made four changes from the team that started the 1-0 defeat to Manchester City in their last outing. Oriol Romeu was suspended, Jannik Vestergaard and Danny Ings missed out while Moussa Djenepo dropped to the bench. Ibrahima Diallo made his first Premier League start, while Jack Stephens, Stuart Armstrong and Shane Long also came in.
Moments later, Southampton very nearly made their opponents pay for their wastefulness as Ward-Prowse’s trademark free-kick from 25 yards was tipped acrobatically onto the bar by Areola with Adams unable to convert the rebound with the spin on the ball deceiving him.
That was the first-half excitement ended but Fulham had a glorious chance to edge in front 10 minutes into the restart as the unmarked Ivan Cavaleiro rose to meet Antonee Robinson’s cross six yards out but the forward glaringly headed over.
Aleksandar Mitrovic continued to cut a dejected figure on the sidelines but Fulham continued to look more mobile in his absence as the lively Lookman’s free-kick was cleared as far as Harrison Reed, whose speculative shot deflected into the gloves of McCarthy.
Moments later, Shane Long was set up by Adams for a rising shot that was tipped over by Areola and the game threatened to warm up when VAR Jon Moss was called upon to check a possible penalty after Ryan Bertrand’s cross struck the arm of Ola Aina, only for the decision to go in Fulham’s favour.
With 15 minutes remaining, the Saints thought they had found the net for the first time when Bertrand spotted the run of Long but his finish was ruled out for offside on the field. Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl was again ruing his team’s misfortune when Walcott was denied with five minutes remaining by VAR.
This time, the call was far more marginal as Adams collected Long’s pass down the right before his cross was superbly finished by the on-loan Everton winger but Simon Hooper ruled the goal out for offside from Stockley Park as the points were shared.
What the managers said
Fulham assistant manager Stuart Gray: “We’re disappointed and you can tell from their reaction that they’re happy with the point. The final ball let us down but it’s four games unbeaten in the Premier League which is very hard to do. We played against a very good side today and we worked on closing them down all week.
“Credit to the players who were brave on the ball but the final piece of the jigsaw wasn’t there. My glass is always half full so I feel we are heading in a positive direction. The most important thing is the attitude and application of the players has been outstanding.
“The gaffer spoke to the players at half-time and he was also on the phone to make the substitutions when we did. It’s a disappointing dressing room as we feel it’s two points dropped.”
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl: “I think we had done enough to win. We had four players unavailable today and I think we did a good job today, scoring two goals with one a very close offside but it’s tough to win here. When you concede a goal it is nearly impossible to come back into the game so it was important to first keep a clean sheet. It was how I expected today.
“We were a little bit unlucky in moments of scoring with Che not able to score after Prowsey’s free-kick. It was the biggest chance of the game and we could also have had a penalty. We were a little bit unlucky.
“Of course, we can add more quality but we don’t have the budget of other clubs. We have two players in all positions, with an experienced player and a younger one, and we don’t want to block the path of the younger players. They have to be patient and take the moments that come along. With the history of our academy, we have to look to the young players to give them a chance but today it was the type of game to go with experience.”
Improving Cottagers – Opta stats
- Fulham have drawn each of their last four Premier League games, after drawing just one of their first 21 in the competition under Scott Parker.
- Southampton have lost just one of their last 13 Premier League away games (W6 D6), and are unbeaten in their last seven on the road since defeat at Crystal Palace on the opening day.
- Fulham have kept three home clean sheets in the Premier League this season, as many as they did at Craven Cottage in the whole of their last top-flight campaign in 2018-19.
Man of the match – Jan Bednarek
In the absence of Jannik Vestergaard, who has been ruled out for at least four weeks with a knee injury, it was vital that Bednarek produced an assured performance as Southampton’s regular centre-half alongside the returning Jack Stephens.
Fulham had the first shot on target in this match in the eighth minute, but didn’t manage another effort on target for the rest of the match.
The Poland international made eight clearances, more than any other Saints player, to ensure that Hasenhuttl’s men equalled a club record of seven successive away Premier League games without defeat. Bednarek also completed more successful passes than any of his team-mates.
Fulham are back in Premier League action on Wednesday December 30 as they travel to face Tottenham; kick-off 6pm. Southampton return a day earlier as they host West Ham at St Mary’s; kick-off 6pm.