New year, new Brighton? Perhaps from a defensive perspective at least after they finally ended their long wait for a Premier League clean sheet.
But the animated Italian was on his knees towards the end after watching Brighton’s latest chance go begging.
He has bemoaning games which his Brighton side have dominated but failed to win of late, at one stage claiming a big team and manager would have converted such performances into victories.
Add this one to the list after the Seagulls missed the chance to leapfrog West Ham and go sixth.
With all the spurned opportunities, the shutout – secured without influential captain Lewis Dunk – may only be small consolation for De Zerbi, one which ended their club record run of 23 league games without one.
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They were certainly helped by West Ham being without two of their biggest attacking threats in Mohammed Kudus and Lucas Paqueta, denying them the services of a couple of players who could have raised the quality of this game and maintained their 100 per cent record over the festive period, a runwhich has left David Moyes on the brink of a new contract
Brighton’s excuse? Just a familiar and frustrating failing in front of goal.
Kudus’s international requirements at AFCON with Ghana and injury to Paqueta left Moyes without two of his star attacking trio, with Jarrod Bowen the sole survivor.
Brighton would have little sympathy for their opponents though having been impacted by key absences all season with the suspended Dunk among the latest.
Inside 90 seconds West Ham thought they had exploited a gap in Brighton’s reshuffled backline when Edson Alvarez burst into the box and went down following a challenge from Billy Gilmour.
Though referee Sam Barrott decided Gilmour withdrew his leg in just enough time.
Brighton responded by seizing control of the game and dominating possession. Not that that meant much against West Ham as the visitors knew only too well.
Brighton had 78 per cent of the ball in the reverse game and were still undone by a Moyes counter-attacking masterclass 3-1 in August.
For all of the ball they had it was not until midway through the half that Brighton had a meaningful attempt and even that, a deflected Facundo Buonaotte effort, hardly troubled Alphonse Areola.
The slow pace of proceedings had taken the sting out of the atmosphere but just before the half two West Ham openings brought the game and crowd came to life.
The first proved to be offside, a Bowen shot brilliantly tipped onto the post by Jason Steele. The next would have counted when James Ward-Prowse volleyed goalwards left footed but another sharp save, with his left foot, from Steele diverted the ball behind for a corner.
Steele’s efforts were matched at the other end by Areola who produced two saves in even quicker succession to keep out a Danny Welbeck looping header and Jack Hinshelwood follow up.
Areola should have then been extended far more than he was when James Milner’ cross found Pascal Gross but the German’s header was straight at West Ham’s goalkeeper.
There was an equally presentable chance for West Ham before half-time too though Konstantinos Mavropanos and Bowen both failed to get a telling touch on Emerson’s ball across goal.
Brighton began the second half initially looking the most likely to inject some much-needed life into the game after the low-key first half. Their appeals for a penalty and Emerson handball were ignored but followed by a Welbeck effort repelled by Areola. Joao Pedro than failed to finish his hard work after dribbling and feinting his way past three West Ham defenders but firing straight at Areola.
Then it was Soucek’s turn to miss a great chance from close in when Said Benrahma’s cross deflected his way but he somehow poked wide.
But that was just brief respite for West Ham. On came Evan Ferguson who was next to go close for Brighton,.
Firstly after fashioning some space with some clever footwork before firing wide and secondly with an attempted clever back-heel that was blocked by the alert Angelo Ogbonna.
Gross and Jakob Moder were then next to miss chances from close range before Adam Lallana extended Areola as the game approached the 90th minute.