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.