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02/03/2007 No.6
Kevin Pullein
Friday March 2, 2007
  Second legs produce more goals but that may not be enough to keep Arsenal in European contention

A goal is always more likely to be scored near the end of a match than near the beginning. Similarly goals are likely to be more plentiful in the second leg of a two-match knockout tie than in the first leg.

In the eight Champions League Round of 16 first-leg ties played last week there were 16 goals. We should expect rather more when the second legs are played on Tuesday and Wednesday next week. In Champions League knockout ties played during the last 10 seasons there were, on average, 2.3 goals during the first leg and 2.7 goals during the second leg (excluding extra-time).

It suggests that in a typical club contest at the highest level the odds about more than 2.5 goals being scored should be as big as 7-5 for the first leg and as small as evens for the second. The bookmakers, pesky fellows, are aware of this phenomenon - in general terms, at least - so it is something that you will have to try to exploit selectively rather than indiscriminately. The precise odds applicable to any game will, obviously, vary with the playing styles of the participating teams.

The prospects of a team qualifying for the next round, naturally enough, are influenced by the result they recorded in the first leg. Consider these figures from two-legged European ties played in the major competitions - the Champions League, Uefa Cup and the now defunct Cup-Winners' Cup - in the last 20 completed seasons. Of all the teams who lost by one goal away from home in the first leg, only 44% qualified for the next round - so Arsenal beware. Of all the teams who drew away from home in the first leg, 72% qualified for the next round. Of all the teams who won by one goal away from home in the first leg, 91% qualified for the next round.

Penalty shoot-outs? They are less likely than you might think and always less likely than the bookmakers' odds imply. It was required in only 3% of these two-legged European ties.


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