Weary West Ham and burned-out Brighton served up a lifeless goalless draw to dent both sides’ top-five ambitions.
Two makeshift teams were missing 16 first-team players between them through injury, illness or suspension, and in West Ham’s case also due to the Africa Cup of Nations which has cost them the services of in-form forward Mohammed Kudus for a month.
Given that it was West Ham’s ninth game in a month, and Brighton’s eighth, managers David Moyes and Roberto De Zerbi would probably have shaken hands on a draw before kick-off and gone to watch the darts instead.
As it was, 60,000 people had to battle a storm to get to the London Stadium before sitting through a match played at a snail’s pace.
It was Brighton’s first goalless draw in 48 Premier League games, their last coming against Nottingham Forest in October 2022.
There was at least something to celebrate for midfielder James Milner, whose 632nd Premier League appearance moved him level with former Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs for second on the all-time list.
During an opening half an hour of new year lethargy, West Ham had a half-hearted penalty appeal waved away when Edson Alvarez tripped over Billy Gilmour’s leg. Emerson Palmieri then scuffed a shot wide.
James Ward-Prowse saw a volley well saved by Jason Steele before Jarrod Bowen’s cross was headed over the crossbar by Konstantinos Mavropanos.
Said Benrahma, left out of Algeria’s AFCON squad, was handed a rare chance by Moyes in the absence of Kudus and Lucas Paqueta and the winger made one mazy run inside from the left wing only to curl his shot wide.
West Ham were marginally the more adventurous team but Brighton probably had the best two chances of the first half.
First Ben Johnson was booked for a foul on Facundo Buonanotte 25 yards out and from Pascal Gross’ cross, Alphonse Areola palmed away a far-post Danny Welbeck header and then saved the rebound from Jack Hinshelwood.
Gross then got in between West Ham’s centre-halves but planted his header from Milner’s cross too close to Areola.
After the break Welbeck’s fierce shot forced a fine diving save from Areola with Milner, who turns 38 on Thursday, skying the rebound.
West Ham should have broken the deadlock on the hour when Benrahma’s cross was deflected into the path of Tomas Soucek but the Czech midfielder stabbed his effort wide.
But Brighton finished stronger and Evan Ferguson, on as a substitute, almost had an immediate impact with a low drive which beat the dive of Areola but rolled inches past the far post.
Jakub Moder blazed over from close range and Areola made another decent save to deny Adam Lallana and preserve a point for the hosts.