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When A Soccer Match Feels Like A Nil Nil

penalty kick When A Soccer Match Feels Like A Nil Nil

Watching the Manchester City against Liverpool game on Sunday, it felt like I was watching a tedious chess game. There was little fluidity to the game and mistakes were plentiful. Just as one team made a move, the opposition would make a counter-move. And moments of style and panache were few and far between.

But the overriding feeling from watching this match was that it felt like a nil nil game before it was even over. In fact, it felt like a nil nil game around the 70th minute mark. Neither team seemed like it was going to score a goal unless a player made a cataclysmic mistake or a shot took a wicked deflection.

There’s something about certain soccer games and certain soccer teams that you can almost smell that a goal is not going to happen. Last week’s Champions League game between Porto and Arsenal was a perfect example. After an entertaining first half and a freaky second goal by Porto, Arsenal was in control of the game and had the lion share of possession. However, by the 70th minute mark, they looked like they had no chance of scoring. Sure, they had scoring chances. But the way the Gunners were passing the ball around, it didn’t look like they were going to score. They didn’t have that sense of urgency you would expect to see a team having at that stage of the game when they’re 2-1 down.

In previous seasons, but definitely not this one, Liverpool has had the opposite effect. Watching them, you had the sense that the Reds were going to score a late goal. The amount of pressure they put on opposing teams was relentless, so much so that you had the feeling that a goal was finally going to go in the net.

That same sense of despair that infects games such as Sunday’s City against Liverpool match is pretty miserable to watch. Sure, every once in a while a goal will be scored when you least expect it, but there are those games that have nil nil written all over them from the onset especially when both teams play a very defensive and unenthusiastic style of play.

Just as games sometimes have nil nil written all over them, that feeling of despair sometimes infects penalty kicks. No matter who the penalty kick taker is, you can often tell whether they’re going to score by their body language. Take a close look at how nervous the player looks, which goalkeepers can smell from a mile away. Watch the penalty taker to see whether he makes eye contact with the goalkeeper. Watch how he places the ball on the penalty spot. And, most important of all, watch what his run up to the ball is like. Before he even strikes the ball, nine times out of ten you’ll know whether he’s going to score or not.

One advantage of watching a game that looks destined to be a scoreless draw is that you can always turn it off before it ends, or if you’re watching it on a DVR, you can fast forward to see the final scoreline.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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9 Responses to When A Soccer Match Feels Like A Nil Nil

  1. StephenLucey says:

    Does it make a difference if the scoreline is a result of tactics rather than a lack of quality?

    Also, yesterday was the first time where I felt that Stevie G.’s talents were really being wasted in a lackluster side. That skill and cross into the box early in the game looked like a thing Torres would have had almost too much time to decide how to deposit into the net.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Stephen, good question. I’ve seen plenty of games with two quality sides playing but both of them cancel each other out and in those games it looked unlikely that a team would score.

      I’m beginning to wonder whether this is Steven Gerrard’s poorest season in years. Yes, he’s been injury prone this season, but when was the last time that Stevie G played like the player we used to know?

      The Gaffer

  2. ovalball says:

    Only caught the second half, but what a yawner. I have seen nil-nils that were fun to watch, even exciting. That one was neither.

    Competition for the number 4 spot remains wide open. It will be fun to see if any of the teams can actually grab it or whether someone is simply going to limp into it.

  3. MNUfan1991 says:

    I can’t believe I watched this instead of Villa v. Burnley on Setanta-i. Missed 5 goals for this snore-fest. :(
    I want my 45 mins (the 2nd half of the Villa game) back.

  4. Ade says:

    agree, but kind of disagree. Ade put a header slightly over the net, would have potentially scored on a breakway that was broken up by an outstanding last-ditch tackle by Skrtel and was pulled down (a legit penalty I thought considering what the ref was handing out yellows for). All that happened after the 70 minute mark I think.

    Not the prettiest game, but I don’t necessarily think a lack of shots on goal means lack of chances. It was a very strategical game, which I think is better than watching Stoke or Blackburn hoof the ball 40 yards in the air everytime and hope for a bad bounce.

  5. David says:

    Great points Gaffer. I DVR’d this very game, with the idea in my head that I would be watching at double speed at some point because of the lack of chances and fluidity that was to come. Some games in the first five minutes (or even before the game starts somehow) seem fit-to-be-tied.

  6. CA_backpacker says:

    Gaffer I agree 100%… it never felt like we would score in this game. Unfortunately this isn’t the only game the Reds looked like this. I put it mostly down to Rafa’s controlling style, with its preference of possession (usually meaningless and in our own half) over speed of attack. It seems he thinks time of possession is some sort of draw-breaker for 0-0 scores.

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