Football: How the first blow usually leads to a knockout

...And statistics
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The Independent Online
Managers often talk about the importance of the first goal. No wonder: statistics show that in recent seasons there has been only a one in 10 chance of a Premiership side scoring first and going on to lose the match.

Over the years the figures have been remarkably consistent, with between 10 and 11 per cent of matches being won by sides that have gone behind. Last season only 33 out of 380 Premiership matches finished this way.

Not surprisingly, the chances of teams recovering to win are even smaller when playing away from home. This season only four teams have won away games after going behind: West Ham at Barnsley on the opening day of the season, and Wimbledon at Barnsley, Arsenal at Chelsea and Derby at Sheffield Wednesday all in September.

In contrast, three Premiership matches last weekend alone saw home sides fight back to win after trailing, Aston Villa beating Everton, Newcastle overcoming Southampton and Leeds producing a stirring revival to beat West Ham 3-1.

The pattern goes back many years. As long ago as the 1964-65 season the Football Association analysed 1,000 matches to discover the effect of the first goal. The survey showed that 10 per cent of home teams lost games after taking the lead, while nearly a quarter of away sides did so.

Of the 133 "first goals" scored this season, 76 have been scored by home teams: 59 have gone on to win, 13 to draw and only four to lose. Of the 57 scored by away teams, 36 have gone on to win, 10 to draw and 11 to lose.

West Ham are the team with the worst record for hanging on to a lead. Harry Redknapp's side have lost three of the seven matches in which they have gone in front this season. Chelsea, Derby, Barnsley and Everton have all lost twice in such circumstances, though Chelsea and Derby - who meet today at Stamford Bridge - have the best records for scoring the first goal.

No clues for guessing which team have never lost a Premiership game in which they have taken the lead. Manchester United have played 217 Premiership matches and have never gone on to lose a game - home or away - in which they have gone in front.

Taking the lead: the last three seasons

Games Teams scoring first going on to

(Games with a first Win Draw Lose

goal in brackets) (Percentage in brackets)

1997-98 146 (133) 95 (72) 23 (17) 15 (11)

Of which home side 76 59 (78) 13 (17) 4 (5)

scored first goal

Of which away side 57 36 (63) 10 (18) 11 (19)

scored first goal

1996-97 380 (339) 228 (67) 78 (23) 33 (10)

1995-96 380 (353) 244 (69) 71 (20) 38 (11)