The time of the first goal is a crucial part of a football match. When the first goal is scored can change how the rest of a game is played. An early goal can lead to a much more open game than expected, whilst a goal just before half-time can change the dynamics between the teams in the second half.
There are specific markets based around the time of the first goal, which differ by bookmaker and exchange and it is important to understand how these work and the differences between them.
The time of the first goal can also give rise to various trading strategies, which we will discuss further below.
Time of First Goal Market
Before looking at strategies based around the time of first goal, it is important first to understand the market itself. The market tends to be priced up differently by various bookies, with different time bands being used.
Let’s look at the time of first goal market on Oddschecker for this match between Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga:
As you can see there are different time bands used by the bookies, with Bet365 using ten-minute bands of 0-10, 11-20, 21-30 and so on whilst the likes of Betway and Genting Bet use fifteen minute bands of 0-15, 16-30 and 31-HT for this market.
On the other hand, if we have a look at the Betfair market for this game:
You will see they use ten minute bands. However, as you will also note the liquidity is poor for this market with £0 matched so far.
Even taking the poor liquidity into account though, the Betfair prices are still better on the back side for the first three time bands than the corresponding bookies’ markets.
Typically there will be some more liquidity before kick-off but even then this is certainly not one of the most liquid markets so caution should be used if operating in the time of first goal market. For the biggest games like Premier League, Champions League, Euros/World Cup etc there will normally be decent liquidity but on other matches it is a little hit and miss.
Time of First Goal Stats
If you are going to bet or trade around the time of the first goal, it is important to know the stats on when the opening goal tends to be scored.
So when exactly is the first goal normally scored in a football match? Well, as a broad average it is typically after half an hour, or around the 30-minute mark.
It does vary by league of course. Here are the stats for the main European leagues for the 2019-20 season in terms of the average of when the first goal was scored in a game:
- – Bundesliga: 28 minutes
- – Premier League: 31 minutes
- – La Liga: 34 minutes
- – Serie A: 29 minutes
- – Ligue 1: 31 minutes
So as you can see, a pretty narrow range of timings there, all clustering around the 30 minute mark with the Bundesliga, the highest-scoring league, having the earliest average first goal time at 28 minutes whilst La Liga has the latest at 34 minutes.
In addition to the average first goal time, it is worth also taking into account the likelihood of goals per time segment. Here is a visualisation for the Premier League from the 2019-20 season via soccerstats:
If we take the first segment, 0-15 minutes, there were 115 goals scored in this timeframe. That equals roughly a 30% chance of goals in this period, although some games would have had more than one goal so the chances of there being at least one goal would be slightly lower.
As you can see, there are more goals later in both halves, partly because there is injury time to account for, but also because sides tend to push forward more in the latter parts of the half.
Overall though from these stats we can see that the early part of a game tends to be the lowest-scoring, with teams perhaps settling down into a rhythm before pressing forward in search of a goal.
Of course there is some variation by club, with some teams tending to start games on the front foot and scoring a higher proportion of early goals than the average, so it is important to keep that in mind for your betting/trading strategy.
Time of First Goal Strategies
Okay, so now we’ve taken a look at the market and stats, let’s get stuck into the actual strategies you can use around the time of the first goal.
Firstly, you might want to consider a trading strategy based around the time of the first goal. As established above, the first goal isn’t scored on average until around the half-hour mark and the first fifteen minutes of a game are the lowest scoring.
As we mentioned, this is likely to be because teams start off a game in a cagey fashion, feeling each other out and getting a measure of their opponent. Players may be more wary of taking risks early on in a game. Whatever the exact reasons, we can capitalize on the fact that games often start slowly by focusing on the over-under goal markets.
Strategy One – Combine Over/Under 2.5 goals + Time of First Goal
One approach to trading around the first goal is to combine the under 2.5 goals market with the time of the first goal. Often the under 2.5 goal market will drop very quickly during the early part of a game, particularly if the match starts slowly with few clear-cut chances.
So you could back the first 10 or 15 minute segment in the time of first goal market, at odds of around 5.0 for the first 10 minutes (or around 3.5 for the first fifteen minutes).
Here is an example from the Roma v Young Boys match in the Europa League:
As you can see we have backed the 1-10 minute goal band at 5.0 for £10.
Then we have backed under 2.5 goals at around 2.24 before the start of the game:
By the time the game reached around the 10 minute mark without a goal, the odds of under 2.5 goals dropped to 1.95, giving a profit of £13 to cash out:
If there is an early goal, obviously the odds on under 2.5 goals will spike upwards, usually leaving a loss of around £40 if you cash out at that point.
However, having backed the time of first goal to be 0-10 minutes @ 5.0 for £10, you have covered this loss.
If there isn’t a goal, then you will have made £13 from the unders trade, minus £10 from the time of first goal bet, leaving you with £3 profit.
This is just an example, but sometimes the under 2.5 goals market will move by more than that, giving you a bigger profit. This is a simple strategy for producing small but regular profits.
It is important to filter out teams who tend to score early goals though. You can use a site like soccerstats for this.
As you can see from the table above, Arsenal had a total of 13 goals scored/conceded in the first 15 minutes, where as Sheff Utd had just 5. So it would be best to stay away from teams with stats like Arsenal’s for this strategy.
Strategy Two – Use Over/Under Goal Markets in Opposition
Another way to benefit from the stats on the time of the first goal is to use different over/under markets in opposition to each other.
So taking this example of OB v AaB, we back the under 2.5 goals @ 2.04 for £100
We also lay under 3.5 goals for £80 (i.e. a liability of £34.40):
If there is no goal in the early part of the game, you can cash out your under 2.5 goals bet for a guaranteed profit. In this example it was a fairly quiet start to the game so we let it run until 30 minutes, when we were able to cash out the under 2.5 goals for £35.
We then let over 3.5 goals bet run, knowing we were in a no-lose position. There were actually three more goals in the game, so plenty of chances to cash out the over 3.5 goals bet:
Hopefully if you are able to pick games with a high expectation of goals, both bets will come in and you will have a handsome profit.
If there does happen to be an early goal, then you will be in a position where the under 2.5 goals trade is underwater but the over 3.5 goals trade is in healthy profit, although the overall position will be a loss. That is okay, and if you like you can back an early goal in the time of first goal market for say £5 to reduce your liabilities if you wish.
It is usually best to trade both positions out if there is an early goal, as you don’t want to be left in a situation where you could lose both trades! This can happen if the game finishes with exactly three goals, although that eventuality can be covered by backing the 3-0, 0-3, 2-1 and 1-2 scorelines in the correct score markets, for more advanced traders.
Strategy Three – Understanding How Early Goals Affect a Game
The third strategy is to take into account how the time of the first goal affects how a game may unfold. A service that has compiled very detailed stats on this from a database of thousands of matches is Trade On Sports.
For example, an early goal can significantly affect how the rest of a game pans out. It may force a side who had been planning to come out and defend to be much more attacking. The game could really open up. Alternatively a goal just before half-time might shake up a manager’s team talk during the break and force a side to bring on substitutes for the second half.
How exactly the dynamics of goal times affects games has been studied in great detail by Trade On Sports and they have built strategies based on these dynamics. One strategy they use is to back the unders at Half-Time depending on what time of the first goal was scored. That made 23 points profit (or £2300 profit to £100 stakes) during our live trial.
They have other strategies backing the overs at HT, which also performed strongly during our trial and another one backing two goals ahead at HT that is showing a lot of promise.
So we recommend checking out Trade On Sports for some high quality strategies based on the time of the first goal. These are available with their Silver Football membership.
Conclusion – Profiting from the Time of First Goal
When the opening goal is scored is an important – but often neglected – part of soccer betting. It is more of a niche market but offers opportunities if you study the stats and use relevant markets to take advantage of your knowledge of goal times.
The first fifteen minutes are normally the most quiet in terms of goals and this can be used to a trader’s advantage. There are a variety of markets you can use, whether it’s the under/over markets, or the time of first goal market itself – or a number of these markets in combination.
We have detailed some strategies for betting and trading on the time of the first goal above. We hope you found these useful and they give you some ideas for developing your own strategies.
Good luck with your trading and please remember to always gamble responsibly.