Who scores first?

23/09/2017 | By | Reply More

I’m just watching the Man City vs West Ham match and West Ham have taken a ‘shock’ lead according to most sources, but how often does the away team score first?


Football is a generally low scoring contest, but not only that you can have a lot of shots and still not score. The chance of a goal from a statistical perspective is interesting because goals are ‘rare’. This lends itself to seeing away teams taking a ‘shock’ lead more often than you imagine.

This is because if you are only expecting a few goals almost evenly distributed then it’s feasible one of those could go to the away team. If that’s feasible then the order of goals would lead us to either team scoring at some point and we just want one before the other.

Solving the problem

To solve one thing you often need to look at another, so to work out the chance of the away team scoring first it’s worth working out two things ahead of that. The first one is actually not who scores first, but if there is a actually a goal.

The average number of goals in a match in 2.60, so if you take that statistic its quite easy, at a top level, to work out the chance of zero goals in a match. There is some basic maths you can do to achieve this, but for professionals a basic assumption is not enough and they dig deeper. But you can guess this value reasonable accurately without complexity.

Matches most likely to end 0-0 are those with away teams as slight favourites. Obviously you would choose matches where both teams are struggling to get goals for the maximum effect if you are searching for this scoreline. Once you have that value you have solved a part of the equation. If you move to the home team, then that will solve another part and then you are just left with the chance of the away team scoring.

How often does the home team take the lead?

Here is an interesting question – ‘If the home team is priced at 2.00 (50% implied chance) how often do they score first?”

Most people assume it would be somewhere near the implied chance of 50% as that would seem logical, after-all that is there chance of winning the game. But they actually have a slightly better than chance of getting the first goal, but it’s only slight. In fact, you shorten the differential between the odds and implied chance more and more as the home win becomes more certain. This seems counter intuitive, but what we are talking about here is ‘shock’. Yes, the home teams chance of scoring first improve as their odds shorten, but by less and less.

From a trading perspective that’s what you are keen to see, a shock. Because that will shorten long odds to much shorter ones, so that’s where I hunt. I pretty much deliberately avoid the obvious.

Backing a home team with a 70% chance of winning the match, than a 60% chance; will only improve that chance of scoring first by 6.5% and it gets narrow as your shorten the odds. But if you look at the away team scoring first it rises by the same amount between a 40% to 50% chance of a home team win. That’s much more likely and easier to spot. Even if the home team is as short as 1.33 there is still around a  one if five chance the first goal wont go to the home team.

It pays to look for the unusual, rather than the obvious. In this case, away teams score first far more often than their odds, or most peoples intuition, suggest.

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Category: Football / Soccer, Trading strategies

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