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08/02/2008 No.36
Kevin Pullein
Friday February 8, 2008

Why, you might wonder, would anyone want to bet on the first half of a football match producing more goals than the second? The reason is that in certain circumstances it is more likely to happen than bookmakers' odds would have us believe. And those circumstances are games that are likely to produce lots of goals; for example, those in Scotland when the Old Firm play at home, as Rangers do tomorrow against Falkirk.


To see how to make the most of the odds, consider the trends. In the past 10 seasons of the English Premier and Football Leagues the first half produced more goals just over 29% of games. In just over 27% of games both halves produced the same number of goals and in just over 43% of games the second half produced more goals.

In the higher-scoring-half market for almost every game several bookmakers quote 9-4 about the first half, 9-4 about a tie and evens about the second half. The first half represents the better bet - 9-4 implies just under a 31% chance - but it still represents bad value. For some fixtures, though, this can change.

The more goals there are likely to be in a match the less likely it becomes that both halves will yield the same number. The chance of the first half producing more goals and the chance of the second half producing more goals both go up, but it is the former that can sometimes represent a good bet.

The reason is that bookmakers know that very few people are prepared to bet on it. Whether they are conscious of it or not, most betters seek thrills, and there is no thrill in watching the second half of a match simply hoping that it will produce fewer goals than you have already seen.

Games that have consistently generated large numbers of goals are those in the Scottish Premier League when Celtic play at Parkhead or Rangers play at Ibrox. When the Old Firm played at home to non-Old Firm opponents during the past 10 seasons the proportion of games in which the first half produced more goals was 33%. If you can get 9-4 about something that is nearer a 2-1 shot, you have a good bet.
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