Saturday, August 13, 2005


Liverpool drew away at Middlesbrough earlier today in one of the openning games of the English premier league, despite 'Boro player Ugo Ehiogu being sent off at 74 minutes.

This is a useful segue to codify 'Matthew's rules for predicting soccer outcomes,' which currently number at two.

The first rule which the Liverpool game attests to, is that if a team loses a player to a red card with less than twenty-five minutes remaining, the score of the game will not change.

The reason: The team that is now playing with ten men pulls together and plays with much more discipline, whereas the the team at full strength feel the pressure to score with their advantage. With less than 25 minutes to play the short team generally holds out.

However, if a team goes down a man with more than twenty-five minutes to play, the full strength team invariably wins.

The reason: There is less pressure on the advantaged team to score immediately so they are the team that becomes more disciplined, pressing their advantage until the short-team buckles.

The second rule, regards penalty shots. If a team is awarded a penalty kick during regular time the scoring of which would allow them to take a lead or close a deficit and they miss, they will lose the game.

This rule, in my experience, is unbreakable. I have watched, played in and refereed hundreds of soccer games of all levels of competitiveness from U-10 house legue to the World Cup and never seen this rule broken.

My suspicion is that if your team is given a free opportunity to score from twelve yards and you can't finish, it is simply not your day and and the gods of soccer will not look favourably upon you in more difficult circumstances.

The "curse of the missed penalty" can be broken however if your team is awarded a second shot, still in regular time, and that one is converted.

The rule does not apply to situations where kicks are used to decide the outcome of the match, as that is obviously a competition unto itself.

Now that I've written these down, inevitably they will be contradicted tomorrow, likely in Newcastle's opener with Arsenal, which Graeme Souness assures me Newcastle are capable of winning.

We'll see, on both counts.

Update [early the next afternoon]:
Rule number one was proved this morning as Arsenal beat Newcastle 2-0 after Newcastle's Jermaine Jenas was sent-off after just 32 minutes. Newcastle manager Graeme Souness was apparently extremely displeased with the performance of the referree. In my opinion, good teams never need to complain about refereeing.

Posted by Matthew @ 7:41 p.m.