Betfair trading – Football trading – Who scores first?

09/02/2018 | By | Reply More

Watch a football match and often you will see the outsider team take a ‘shock’ lead according to most sources, but how often does the away team score first?


Football is a, generally, a low scoring contest. 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 the function of only expecting a few goals which are almost evenly distributed. It’s feasible that 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 slightly 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 actually a goal.

The average number of goals in a match in 2.60, so if you take that statistic it’s quite easy, at a top level, to work out the chance of zero goals in a match. There are 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 add in some home advantage to 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 a 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 their chance of winning the game so the chance of scoring first must roughly equal that over the long term?

The reality is that they actually have a slightly better than even chance of getting the first goal, but it’s only slight. The really interesting fact is that as you shorten the odds, the differential between the odds and implied chance gets smaller as the home win becomes more certain.

This seems counter-intuitive but you learn that the home teams chance of scoring first improve as their odds shorten, but by less and less. Eventually, they reach parity and the chance of a win is roughly equal to the chance of scoring first. Therefore, backing a team at odds that are too short and you may as well just have a punt on them winning the match.

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

It’s not unusual

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 you 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 won’t 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 trading strategies, Trading strategies

About the Author ()

I left a good job in the consumer technology industry to go a trade on Betfair for a living way back in June 2000. I've been here ever since pushing very boundaries of what's possible on betting exchanges and loved every minute of it.

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