Saints and the Baggies played out a spirited yet fairly uneventful goalless draw in Southampton’s first home game of the season.
Neither team could quite work out a way to unlock their opponent’s defence in a game which showed the work in progress being made by both teams at the start of the new campaign.
The best chances for each side came within minutes of each other in the second half, with both efforts displaying the game’s fine margins.
In the 70th minute, James Ward-Prowse’s curling free-kick clipped the post, and three minutes later, the midfielder’s teammate Fraser Forster made a vital save low to his left which denied Albion substitute Brown Ideye from stealing in a close range strike.
The Baggies had lost on seven of their previous ten trips to Southampton, but were resolute enough to repel a Saints attack which was kept quiet on the afternoon.
Ronald Koeman had named an unchanged starting line up from the team that kicked off the season at Anfield last weekend. Defender Florin Gardos was named amongst the substitutes for the first time though, with Jack Stephens dropping out of the 18.
There was little to choose between the two teams in the opening 45 minutes.
Albion had started on the front foot, with Graham Dorrans making early in-roads to the Saints defence, but the midfielder’s best opportunity of the early spell of possession from the visitors was blocked by Fonte’s strong interception in the 14th minute.
Out of the two England goalkeepers on show, it was Baggies stopper Ben Foster who was the busier and he had to be at his best to deny Dušan Tadić in the 36th minute. The Serbian winger had the pick of the first half chances when he received a cushioned header down from Steven Davis, before poking a low shot towards the bottom corner which the keeper got down to.
That came moments after Saints almost pounced on a mix up in the West Brom backline when Youssuf Mulumbu knocked the ball beyond the on-rushing Foster outside of the area. Tadić won the ball, but his cross aimed at Pellè facing an open net, was just too high for the Italian.
The limited number of clear chances meant that a scoreless first half surprised few inside St Mary’s.
Koeman responded by making his first change of the match at the interval with former Baggies forward Shane Long replacing Steven Davis, and moving into the right side of the attacking three Saints players.
Baggies boss Alan Irivne followed suit shortly into the new half, bringing on club-record signing Brown Ideye in place of Victor Anichebe to try and spark his attacking options.
Saints continued to look the more likely to break the deadlock though, with Long heading over from Tadić’s cross as the hosts stepped up their search for the opening goal.
Tadić worked Foster again before the hour after cutting inside to hit a tame shot towards goal.
Albion’s substitute, Ideye soon got involved in the action. He headed the ball into the side-netting at the far post from Graham Dorrans’ cross, before having claims for a penalty turned down by match official Roger East.
On 67 minutes Fraser Forster was called into action to keep out Craig Gardner’s deflected free-kick, with Saints remaining in control of the game.
Tadić drove a shot from range which went narrowly wide before Ward-Prowse went even closer with a well-struck free-kick which came back off the post, with Foster beaten.
For all their struggles in the final third, the Baggies almost caught Saints on the break in the 73rd minute though, when Ideye spun past Fonte to face Forster one-on-one, and the keeper stood his ground to make a fine close range block.
That proved to be as close as either side came to finding a goal in a keenly contested, but ultimately scoreless match.
Southampton team: Fraser Forster, Nathaniel Clyne, José Fonte (c), Maya Yoshida, Ryan Bertrand, Morgan Schneiderlin, Victor Wanyama, Steven Davis (Shane Long 46), James Ward-Prowse (Jack Cork 77), Dušan Tadić, Graziano Pellè. Unused substitutes: Kelvin Davis, Florin Gardos, Saphir Taïder, Jos Hooiveld, Lloyd Isgrove.
West Brom team: Ben Foster, Andre Wisdom, Jonas Olsson, Craig Dawson, Sebastien Pocognoli (Jason Davidson 59), Craig Gardner, Youssuf Mulumbu, Graham Dorrans, Chris Brunt (c), Victor Anichebe (Brown Ideye 52), Saido Berahino (Stephane Sessegnon 89). Unused substitutes: Boaz Myhill, Chris Baird, Claudio Yacob, Gareth McAuley.
Booked: Brunt, Gardner
Referee: Roger East
Attendance: 27,598 (1,624 away)