Late goals conceded, and what they really mean

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: Roberto Mancini manager of Manchester City looks dejected on the bench during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on March 20, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Last Sunday, City held firm against Chelsea but ultimately two late goals was enough for a victory that ended City's slim title hopes, and seemingly makes the final Champions League spot once again a battle between City and Tottenham.

In the process, the goals conceded contributed to City now being the league worst in terms of goals allowed in the final fifteen minutes of games: 11 of the 27 conceded have come in this period, some 41%.

By way of comparison, when shown alongside the other top five clubs City are far and away the most profligate in this area. Arsenal have conceded 7/29 (24%), United 8/30 (27%), Chelsea 7/24 (29%) and Tottenham (who have conceded the same amount, but more goals overall making their percentage lower) 11/34 (32%).

But in some ways this is too simplistic a look at things. I've posted before about the importance of quick starts in games, particularly the value of these in terms of going on to win games. So, does conceding late point to a sign of weakness and vital points dropped, or are they simply 'garbage goals'; conceded when the win is safely wrapped up?

In conceding 11 goals in the final 15 minutes, this has come over nine games in total. Interestingly two games at home and seven away from home.

The two home games, Arsenal and Wolves were games where Arsenal had the game already in the bag (due to adding to their earlier goals and City being reduced to ten men) and Wolves where City conceding saw Wolves reduce the arrears but did not impact on the outcome of the game. In these two games therefore, conceding late had no effect on the outcome, thus no impact on the points won or lost.

Away from home it is a different story however. On two occasions (Blackpool and West Ham), the result was not impacted - although Blackpool did pull level at Bloomfield Road before City went 3-1 ahead before then pulling a goal back in injury time, whilst West ham scored a late consolation goal when 3-0 down.

In other five instances points were dropped though.

Away to Stoke a late goal cancelled out Micah Richards own late opener, whilst at Birmingham three points were squandered as Kevin Phillips late penalty levelled the game at 2-2. In remaining three games however, City were drawing until late before going on to be defeated at Sunderland, United and Chelsea, losing late and throwing away a potential point (at least) in each.

In total then, although 41% of goals conceded this season have come in the last fifteen minutes, the effect of this is that in nine games, they have directly resulted in dropping a total of seven points overall. This figure can also be slightly offset by the fact that City have recouped three points late in games - Adam Johnson's winner at home to Newcastle and the Richards goal away to Stoke that was ultimately good for a point. (City have scored a further three - in three seperate games) over the last 15 minutes that didn't affect the overall outcome).

So, not quite the cataclysmic effect that the figure of 41% may have initially generated but with a poor record away from home of late, particularly against the top half (with away fixtures at Liverpool, Blackburn, Everton and Bolton in addition to hosting Sunderland, West Ham, Tottenham, Stoke) it is evidence enough to serve as a cautionary note and a warning that the side can ill-afford late slips over the final stretch of the 2010/11 season.

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