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The Importance Of Scoring The First Goal Of The Game

I was running over a few numbers for a piece on goals, when they are scored and what the game situation was and I ran into a few numbers about the 1st goal scored and what it meant in the 2011/12 EPL.

I didn't think the scoring of the 1st goal was so important, I was wrong. How about a 71% win percentage when the home team scores the 1st goal?

I have taken the numbers from all of the 380 EPL games of the 2011/12 season and I looked at what the scoring of the first goal truly meant.

I will break this down into Home and Away sections.

Time Of First Goal

Time of 1st goal (minutes)
Home 31.8
Away 30.5

Likelihood Of Results When Scoring First

Win % Draw % Loss %
Home 70.79 16.73 12.39

The importance of scoring the 1st goal when playing at home is laid bare here. These are the average numbers for every team, from Wolves to Man City.

A 70.79 % likelihood of a win when scoring the first goal.

A 87.52% chance of not losing the game.

Only a 12.39% chance that an away side will overcome conceding the 1st goal and go on to win, even if it is our beloved Man City.

Win % Draw % Loss %
Away 61.17 25.85 12.91

These are the away numbers. An away team scoring the 1st goal still has a strong chance of going on to win the win game. But the chances are less due to home team advantage pressures. We are talking in the region of an 8.5% drop in away win % in comparison to home win %.

A 61.17 % chance of winning the game if the away team scores the first goal is still a very strong number.

An 87.02% chance of the away team not losing the game when scoring first

A 12.91% chance that the home team is able to overcome the away team scoring the first goal and going on to overcome that deficit and win the game.

Remember these are the average numbers and not Man City's or Utd's. Also remember that these are only the numbers for the EPL in 2011/12, this specific stat is probably an unstable one ,in so much as the percentages will vary from season to season and 380 games isn't a big enough sample size.

Man City When Scoring The First Goal

Man city scored the 1st goal on seventeen occasions at home, the two times they didn't was the Chelsea 2-1 win and Sunderland 3-3 draw.

Away from home Man City scored the first goal on twelve occasions.

Win % Draw % Loss %
home 100 0 0
away 75 16.6 8.3

As we can see Man City were especially strong when scoring the 1st goal of the game, outperforming the average numbers at home by a distance and slightly outperforming the percentage chance of a win on the road.

To give Man City's numbers some context I shall list all the teams.

2011/12 EPL 1st Goal Result Likelihood


home Win % Draw % Loss %
Man City 100.00 0.00 0.00
Man Utd 88.20 11.70 0.00
Arsenal 83.30 16.60 0.00
Spurs 93.75 6.25 0.00
Newcastle 91.60 8.30 0.00
Chelsea 71.40 14.28 14.28
Everton 75.00 16.10 8.30
Liverpool 55.50 33.30 11.10
Fulham 87.50 12.50 0.00
West Brom 66.60 0.00 33.30
Swansea 63.60 27.20 9.10
Norwich 66.60 22.20 11.10
Sunderland 66.60 11.10 22.20
Stoke 60.00 30.00 10.00
Wigan 50.00 37.50 12.50
Aston Villa 33.30 44.40 22.20
QPR 54.50 18.10 27.20
Bolton 75.00 25.00 0.00
Blackburn 83.30 0.00 16.60
Wolves 50.00 0.00 50.00

70.79 16.73 12.39

Points of interest are highlighted. Red=bad Green= great

I could of highlighted all of Aston Villa's numbers but I settled on just the two. Even if Aston Villa scored first at home (only on 9 occasions) they weren't a strong enough outfit to protect what they had, the manager didn't help in this regard and neither did the youthful nature of their team.

Liverpool's highlighted draw number goes on to show us that despite taking the lead they were the team 3rd most likely to draw in the EPL.

Wolves and West Brom's far higher than average likelihood of losing once scoring the 1st goal contributed to the worst home form in the league for Wolves and the 5th worst home form in the league for West Brom.


Away Win % Draw % Loss %
Man City 75.00 16.60 8.30
Man Utd 92.80 7.10 0.00
Arsenal 62.50 0.00 37.50
Spurs 66.60 22.20 11.10
Newcastle 72.70 0.00 27.20
Chelsea 66.60 22.20 11.10
Everton 62.50 37.50 0.00
Liverpool 88.80 0.00 11.10
Fulham 66.60 33.30 0.00
West Brom 75.00 12.50 12.50
Swansea 60.00 40.00 0.00
Norwich 50.00 33.30 16.60
Sunderland 57.10 42.80 0.00
Stoke 66.60 33.30 0.00
Wigan 57.10 14.20 28.50
Aston Villa 33.30 66.60 0.00
QPR 66.60 33.30 0.00
Bolton 75.00 25.00 0.00
Blackburn 28.50 57.10 14.30
Wolves 0.00 20.00 80.00

61.17 25.85 12.91

Points of interest are again highlighted.

Wolves had a loss % after scoring the first goal, Arsenal were not great by this measure either.

Sunderland were likely to draw a higher % of games after taking the lead than anyone else.

Liverpool had a great win % and Man Utd, holders of by far the best away form in the league, show us just how strong they were after scoring the 1st goal of the game with a 92.8 win %.

Number of 1st goals scored (overall)

Number of times scoring 1st goal
Man City 29
Man Utd 31
Arsenal 20
Spurs 26
Newcastle 23
Chelsea 23
Everton 20
Liverpool 18
Fulham 14
West Brom 17
Swansea 16
Norwich 15
Sunderland 16
Stoke 13
Wigan 15
Aston Villa 15
QPR 14
Bolton 10
Blackburn 13


It's not difficult to see just how important scoring the 1st goal is. 71% chance of a win at home, 61% chance away.

If your team scores a lower number of 1st goals, it essential means your team faces an uphill struggle to gain a draw let alone a win.

This is why I highlighted Arsenal's number of games having taken the lead.

Arsenal took the lead on twenty occasions which looks like it should of placed them around 7th. Arsenal were 3rd in the EPL and did so on the back of many stirring come from behind comebacks.

Arsenal won 6 games and had 2 draws from their 13 games whereby they had conceded the first goal in the EPL, winning 46.15 % of the games they fell behind in. It's a staggeringly high win percentage when having conceded the first goal.

Is this sustainable? And without RVP? I'm not sure it is.

Man Utd took the lead in 31 of 38 EPL games. It's a great number and was powered by the EPL's best away number.

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