Hammers halt Southampton march after Adrian sees red
Southampton 0 West Ham 0
Should Louis van Gaal analyse the statistics of this match he will find them deeply satisfying. In the final 25 minutes almost every pass West Ham made was a long ball.
Sam Allardyce's team had a reasonable excuse, though. Reduced to 10 men by the dismissal of goalkeeper Adrian, they dug in for a draw, defending the 18-yard box while leaving Andy Carroll, in splendid isolation 30 yards away, to eke out valuable seconds chasing down clearances.
The Hammers held out for a point which meant Southampton slipped behind United - another reason for Van Gaal to smile.
When these teams met at Upton Park on the third weekend of the season, Saints were still seeking their first win after the summer exodus. Victory in east London was the launchpad for their unlikely assault on the Champions League places.
West Ham, too, are enjoying an unexpectedly successful campaign despite their squad depth also being tested. As if to illustrate that, last night Southampton had a central defender pressed into service at left-back, West Ham a midfielder filling in at centre-half, but neither defence was unduly troubled in the opening half.
Saints were the brighter side, but their close passing foundered whenever they reached the visitors' area. Only once did they get round the back of the Hammers' defence. That was after 13 minutes when Eljero Elia broke through. Adrian did enough to deny him and an alert Carl Jenkinson cleared as Sadio Mane threatened to turn the loose ball in.
Hammers responded with a shot from Morgan Amalfitano that was blocked by Steve Davis, but it was a rare foray. They were fortunate that referee Craig Pawson did not spot Cheikhou Kouyaté using his hand to prevent Graziano Pellè's flick entering the box, and grateful Florin Gardos did not make more of a good opportunity, but otherwise reached the break without alarm.
They re-emerged without Enner Valencia, Matt Jarvis replacing him. Valencia had been anonymous but as he was hardly alone in that.
A second change, introducing Carroll, soon followed, then a third, this time very much unplanned as Adrian's dismissal prompted the arrival of Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Adrian had lost control of a backpass as Mane closed him down, then handled the ball outside the area. The Hammers were furious, arguing that Mane had fouled Adrian as the pair scrambled for the ball and, besides, a covering defender was back by the time Adrian handled.
After Dusan Tadic, with his first touch, failed to convert the free-kick, West Ham withdrew the wagons, settling for defending the point they had. (© Independent News Service)