Football is an utterly crazy game.
Consider these mutually exclusive statements that are ALL true:
- Team A should have won the game AND team B who should have lost the game also should have won the game?
- Player X achieves a near perfect performance score (100% and 86% on two KPIs!) yet leaves the field with a sense of utter dejection and despair?
- Neither team A nor Team B would have gotten anything out of this match without the contribution of player X?
All will be explained below (I hope).
Mangere United’s withdrawal (due to their merger with Manukay City who now play in Prems as Manukau United) a chance presented itself to quietly and elegantly rectify the multiple wrongs of last year’s Div 2 season. Instead, a “vacancy play-off” was scheduled to see who would fill the “vacant” spot.
Before the first match, I was told by people – who know Auckland football much more intimately than I ever will – that it would be naive to think of Onehunga Mangere as the favourites. That because:
A: technically, after OM being relegated in 2107, both teams are Conference League teams at this point in time
and also because
B: each club is free to recruit as many “guest players” as they can or want for such a pre-season play-off. Heck – they could field a whole team of players that have not played for them in 2017 and won’t play for them in the actual 2018 season either!
So, if Beachlands Maraetai could manage to recruit Playoff guest players on short term loan from, let’s say, last year’s Div 2 champions (!) Fencibles, then that would obviously change the picture heavily in their favour.
Does any of this make sense? What would I know!?
The way the first play-off match developed, quickly corroborated the notion that we were looking at a contest between equals at best but the longer it went on it became clear that the players in blue shirts were actually more than capable to put themselves firmly in the driver seat.
- BM dominated for 60 minutes (63%) of game time with OM enjoying an advantage for 21 minutes (22%) with 14 minutes (15%) of equilibrium between both sides (Pressure).
- BM dominated throughout the match in regards to creating goal scoring opportunities with 12 to 2 High Pressure situations (BM 86% to OM 14%).
- BM produced 5 quality shots (2x C1/1xC2/ 1x 6YB/ 1x 1-1) on target (71%) – all of which were saved by the OM keeper.
- OM produced 2 quality shots (1xC1/ 1x 6YB) on target (29%) – one of which was saved by the BM keeper.
- BM keeper Karam did not have to attend to any non-SOT related High Pressure (Reliability % na)
- OM keeper had to deal with 7 non-SOT related High Pressure situations (6 successful = 86% Reliability, which is a high value)
- BM’s KPI advantage suggested a (clear) win for them [even without any GK errors!]
- Despite BM’s significant overall domination the match could actually have been won 1:0 by OM “against the odds” thanks to a goal scored via 6 yard box SOT from a corner kick by M Bruce as well as the 5 quality saves by the OM keeper Dvorak.
- However, BM’s equaliser was the result of OM keeper non-SOT related error.
HERE is a video with all significant moments of the match.
Prediction for deciding re-match:
80+ % probability for a BM win in regular match time if KPI pattern is repeated (and without any GK errors on either side!)
Here is the new blog feature:
Cognitive Biases in action
I was intrigued by how public match reports seemed to agree that while BM had the majority of possession, it was OM who had the best chance to take the lead in the first half.
In reality, it was BM who took the only actually dangerous shot ON target in the 27th minute – and from a Fast Break/ 1-1 situation no less! No one seemed to remember or mention this significant game situation and I have an explanation why that was the case:
A combination of the Saliency effect and the Simulation Heuristic probably made people remember OM as the team with the best chance during the first 45 minutes of the match despite the opposite being true.
In plain English, this means that OM’s best chance was a cracking shot that was only a fraction OFF target and therefore hit the underside of the crossbar (instead of the back of the net) and then the goal line before spinning away. The target, you see, is actually the empty space on the INSIDE of the goal frame.
But – boy oh boy – did that moment look spectacular and therefore was extremely salient and thus memorable! On top of that it was very easy to imagine how this ball COULD HAVE gone in – twice – first on its journey to the lower edge of the crossbar and then again down to the goal line; that is the Simulation Heuristic at work.
Looking at this moment multiple times in slow motion, by the way, makes me think that BM keeper Karam had it actually covered and that his fingertips – identical to what actually happened in the exact same spot early in the second half yet again – would probably have nudged the shot toward the cross bar with the same result: no goal! The difference is, of course, that this would have been a superb save instead of a very narrow miss that did not require such a save in the first place.
Although the following 1-1 situation – 16 minutes later – was factually more significant and did require an actual save to prevent the early BM lead (just look at the keeper’s immediate reactions as well as that of his team mates!) to most spectators it probably did not look nearly as spectacular in comparison to OM’s crossbar hit and therefore was overshadowed by it and thus easily forgotten by the time the match had finished and match reports were written.
The Dynamic Match Chart/ DMC also indicates that BM showed up no fewer than 20 times inside OM’S penalty area while the Mountain Men had no more than 8 such moments to their name during the opening half of this match. This significant imbalance of Pressure created is probably what lead to (correct) reports of a BM “possession” advantage.
The notion that OM was the more threatening team in the first half is even further removed from the data when we take into account that BM dominated a total of 27 minutes of the opening half compared to only 6 minutes of an objective OM advantage with the remaining 12 minutes being an equilibrium between the teams (see the DMC).
During this first half, BM created 4 High Pressure situations (2 High balls into the goal mouth area with BM players lurking to receive and convert, 1 1-1SOT and another Fast Break just defused by the keeper and then an OM defender in stoppage time) with OM not having any to their account!
There you go.
A single spectacular moment (i.e. SALIENCY) that COULD HAVE (i.e. SIMULATION HEURISTIC) lead to an OM goal (had the shot actually been ON target AND keeper Karam’s fingertips not making a difference!) created the collective impression that the Mountain Men had an advantage in the opening 45 minutes – when it was actually the complete opposite.
This is a nice example of how people may easily misjudge the objective flow of a match and the team’s respective factual strengths and weaknesses and how a careful and methodical observation and recording of significant actions is essential to ascertain a full and objective picture of a match as well as of individual players’ contributions.
Finally – the actual match Commentary
Apart from a cracking distance shot into the crossbar that flung the ball down onto the goal line but not behind it in the 11th minute BM more or less dominated the first half as they recorded 86% of all meaningful penalty area situations.
If not for a full stretch save by the OM keeper BM would have taken the lead in the 15 th minute when a classic 1-1 situation culminated in a well-executed shot into the far corner.
After that tense moment no more shots on target could be recorded for either team. What we learned from this period (as well as the second half) was that the 2018 edition of the Mountain Men have nothing lost of their resilient spirit but that this resilience is harnessed now in a much more organised way under coach Brian Turner’s tutelage.
In stoppage time, OM had one more hairy moment to survive as yet another blue clad player broke through their defences. A desperate block by OM’s GK Dvorak prevented a shot from being taken before the ball could be cleared away by a defender and so it was still nil all at half time.
The second half saw initially a stronger attacking effort by OM but again it was BM who looked like going into the lead.
OM’s keeper just managed to get his finger tips on a rocket shot from inside the penalty area that subsequently banged into the crossbar and down on the line and then outwards. The following header was then deemed to have come from an off side position and so the score sheet remained blank for a few moments longer.
Then came OM’s strongest moments of the game when they pushed forward and forcing a corner in the process. It was this corner kick, delivered right into BM’s 6yard box, that was headed into the back of the net by M Bruce for the OM 1:0 lead – surely against the run of play up to this point and cause for some delirious celebrations.
This clearly spurned BM on to redouble their already impressive attacking efforts and they completely dominated territory for the rest of this match – apart from a few seconds in stoppage time.
Wave after wave of attacks came now crashing towards OM’s penalty area. One of those attacks lead to a shot from the edge of the 6yard box that required yet another reflex save by Dvorak to preserve the slender lead. More attacks and shots followed and OM players threw their bodies in the way leading to more corners for the “home” team BM.
A cheeky looping ball from the sideline was also heading for the underside of the crossbar, too, but the OM Keeper was having none of that and it started to look as if OM could actually pull off one of “those” wins against the odds (given how the match had developed to this point – please refer to the Dynamic Match Chart and Summary Match KPI Comparison Table for details)
15 minutes from the end another well-placed BM corner kick was yet again safely plucked out of the air by Dvorak just before THE MOMENT happened. This is “the moment” that every goal keeper fears the most. A moment that can (at least partially) undo all the good work the keeper and his whole team have put into a match .
What could have been a simple kick out of the hands or a quick boot up field turned into such a moment of horror as he dropped the ball to the ground seemingly with no one in sight, readying himself for a kick. However BM’s Nick Reid sensed an opportunity and charged at the keeper with enormous speed. Once Dvorak realised the acuity of this completely unexpected threat it was already too late and he was swiftly dispossessed and left in the dust with an easy tap into the empty goal: OM’s lead gone in the blink of an eye and out of absolutely nothing and after withstanding so many attacks and shots. Kudos to BM’s Nick Reid to first create and then utilise such an opportunity out of thin air!
Almost simultaneously – on the other end of the globe as well as on the complete opposite end of the spectrum of football competitions – my old home town club VfB Stuttgart played against FC Cologne in Germany’s highest level league (Bundesliga). Cologne eventually lost this match to visitors Stuttgart 2:3 on the back of one terrible and another not as obvious mistake by their keeper Timo Horn. ( here is a link to the original article for any German speaking visitors to this blog)
What is my point here?!
My point is that Cologne’s keeper Horn is very much in the frame to be in Germany’s upcoming World Cup squad – he is normally that good!
So, we have a professional goal keeper playing on the highest level in a season defining match (Cologne is in grave danger of being relegated) and he costs his team not just the match but possibly their last chance to stay in Germany’s highest league.
Is it, then, too lenient when allowing for the possibility that a young keeper in his 23rd official match for his club finally may produce his first really bad stuff up? Even when the keeper’s gross miscalculation of the situation came at the most inopportune time in his OM career thus far?
Therefore, it was moving to note his team’s and the team’s supporters’ positive reactions afterwards as they all knew that he had still also very significantly contributed towards the final draw against a very strong opposition team with everything else he did in this match.
So – a world apart in more than one way – he has now something in common with Germany’s possible national Goal Keeper Timo Horn: the support of people who understand that this is the real world and not the inside of a Hollywood Superhero movie and that very occasionally such terrible moments simply happen – even to the very best of them.
In the dying seconds of the match OM managed to shake off their justified disappointment and mounted one more serious attack themselves but their final attempt in stoppage time was too close (i.e. a borderline C1SOT) to BM’s keeper Jared Kamar who finally also had a chance to get seriously involved in this match with a good reflex save just before the final whistle.
As the “away goals rule” does not seem to apply to this “vacancy playoff” (that actually DOES make sense as both matches are played at the same neutral ground!), absolutely nothing was decided after the final whistle. Given BM’s KPIs they would now, however, have to be seen as the favourites for the deciding re-match!?
OM have already vastly improved over last season’s efforts where a territorial disadvantage of 33% to 67% of Pressure scores would have included far more Fast Breaks/ 1-1 against them as well as conceding shots from inside their 6yard box than it did in this match. Under Brian Turner’s guidance the Mountain Men were much more able to restrict their opponents in regards to taking quality shots and their 6 yard box was “out of bounds” for any player not wearing red.. Still, a negative ratio of 2 to 5 in Quality shots and 2 to 12 in High Pressure moments was too much for comfort. They key issue for the deciding re-match will be whether OM can keep limiting BM’s quality shots on target while ramping up their own production of High Pressure moments (2 is just not nearly enough across 90 minutes in any game) and quality shots on target in particular.
At the time this blog is being published (6:45 pm on 11th March) the second match has been well under way and we are maybe already wiser as to the outcome of the “Vacancy Play-off”.
The detailed analysis of this all deciding second match will be published within the next few days.
May the better team win!