Fulham and Southampton played out a goalless draw in a hard-fought Premier League encounter at Craven Cottage.
The visitors twice had the ball in the back of the Fulham net but VAR correctly ruled both efforts out, with Shane Long offside before scoring and Che Adams also offside prior to teeing up Theo Walcott’s close-range finish.
Defeat would have been harsh on the hosts, who dominated for long periods despite the absence of manager Scott Parker, who was self-isolating.
Now unbeaten in four league matches, they were unfortunate not to continue their recent improvement with a win.
Both Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Ivan Cavaleiro missed good opportunities to score and a late siege on the visitors’ goal also saw Aleksandar Mitrovic go close with a left-foot shot.
The subdued Saints came closest to scoring a legitimate goal when James Ward-Prowse hit the crossbar with a first-half free-kick.
The result sees Fulham remain 18th in the table while Southampton drop to eighth.
Parker calls the shots from home
While Parker had talked of being unable to work to the “maximum” in recent days, his team made light of his enforced absence and he still hosted the half-time teamtalk via a computer and made the substitutions remotely.
A high-octane start allowed them to control possession and work the ball into several promising positions.
Defenders Ola Aina and Antonee Robinson contributed with searching deliveries from either flank while Zambo Anguissa and Ruben Loftus-Cheek galvanised the Cottagers from midfield.
Had Cameroon international Zambo Anguissa been able to readjust his body to strike Ademola Lookman’s cutback from eight yards, the hosts would have taken a merited lead.
Instead, the former Marseille midfielder saw the ball trickle to safety off his standing leg.
While Southampton briefly rallied before the interval the second period followed the same pattern with the hosts pressing forward in search of their third win of the season.
Robinson’s pinpoint delivery from the left deserved better than Cavaleiro’s wayward header and there were chances for Lookman and Harrison Reed before substitute Mitrovic almost stole all three points.
“The final piece of the jigsaw is to put the ball in the net,” said assistant Stuart Gray.
“I’m a glass-half-full guy, and four games unbeaten compared to the start of the season says we’re going in the right direction.”
Under-strength Saints stutter
ith Oriol Romeu, Jannik Vestergaard and Danny Ings missing Southampton’s spine was noticeably weakened.
And that perhaps contributed to a sluggish performance against determined opponents.
The Saints were second to every ball early on and looked a shadow of the side that has been in and around the top four for the majority of the campaign.
While Ward-Prowse’s superb free-kick – which span away from Adams following up after Alphonse Areola had touched it on to the crossbar – jolted them into life it did not inspire them to seize the initiative.
The front three of Walcott, Adams and Long were starved of service and had the fewest touches of any of the visiting players.
That was underlined by their meagre tally of three shots, their joint fewest in a Premier League game since 2003-04.
“It’s tough here – the pitch is tight, they put on a lot of pressure and if you concede a goal you have nearly no chance to come back,” said Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl.
“The clean sheet was the most important thing today.”
Solid Fulham keep another clean sheet
Fulham have drawn each of their past 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 past 13 Premier League away games (W6 D6), and are unbeaten in their past 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.
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.
Ademola Lookman was involved in half of Fulham’s 10 shots against Southampton, having two attempts and creating a further three.
Fulham travel across London to face Tottenham in their next Premier League game on Wednesday, 30 December (18:00 GMT).
Southampton host West Ham in their next top-flight game on Tuesday, 29 December (18:00).