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Two weeks ago
Jul 6, 2017

Live soccer betting strategy: What do we learn in the first half of a match?

Why analysing first half and second half performance is useful

Using data as part of a live betting strategy

Be wary of exceptions to the rule

Live soccer betting strategy: What do we learn in the first half of a match?

The appeal of live betting in soccer is that bettors can gauge what is happening in a game and make more informed judgements about what is likely to happen next and bet on it. Using data from a team’s performance in the first half of a match and comparing it to the performance in the second half could be the key to success in live soccer betting. Read on to find out more.

How different quality teams tend to perform when they score or concede first and how to use it to your advantage has already been addressed in a previous article. However, because soccer is a low scoring sport it can be difficult to find valuable betting opportunities once the most important events in a match have occurred.

Why analysing first half and second half performance is useful

Whilst the trends of team performance after scoring or conceding first are fairly consistent from season to season, the other issue with first goals is that it’s hard to predict when they will happen.

There is various information that bettors can use to guide their live betting strategy. Statistics on how teams perform in the first and second halves of matches are widely available on the Internet, and it can potentially be more useful than analysing team performance after the first goal in a match.

Bettors can rely on consistent performance in both halves of matches for the majority of teams and the general performance level is established very early on in a season.

The good news is that a lot of teams are reasonably consistent in their performance in both halves of matches. This may seem obvious, as we know from the previous article that teams who score first win 69% of the time, so logically if they take the lead in the first half then they often see the match out.

But it’s also not quite as straightforward as you might think. Consider this: if a team wins the first half 2-0, they can then draw or even lose 1-0 in the second half and still get their desired final result. Their performance after the half time break is worse in this example, but they would still win the match.

Using data as part of a live betting strategy

As the below table shows, the majority of teams get very similar results in both halves of matches. This shows the difference in points per game for first and second halves, on the assumption that a result is decided on each set of 45 minutes play. The data covers the 100 team seasons from the last five years in the Premier League and includes both plus and minus differences.

PPG difference between 1st and 2nd half

Points Per Game (PPG) difference between 1st and 2nd half

Number of teams

0 to 0.10

33

0.11 to 0.25

33

0.26 to 0.5

27

Greater than 0.5

7

We can see that two-thirds of teams have no more than a quarter point per game difference between their performances in each half of matches. It also doesn’t tend to take long for the general form for the season to be established.

The following table shows the difference in points per game for first halves when comparing the first half of a season and the season as a whole. Having already investigated the importance of the first six games of the season, we know it is important to make this kind of comparison.

PPG difference between 1st half performance after 19 and 38 games

PPG difference between 1st half performance after 19 and 38 games

Number of teams

0 to 0.10

41

0.11 to 0.25

38

0.26 to 0.5

21

Greater than 0.5

0

A team’s first half performance after 19 matches remains within a quarter of a point per game of that figure by the end of the season four times out of five. We want guidance for our betting strategy earlier in the season than the half way point though, so the good news is that the figures are still within a quarter point for two-thirds of teams after just ten matches, as the following table illustrates.

PPG difference between 1st half performance after 10 and 38 games

PPG difference between 1st half performance after 10 and 38 games

Number of teams

0 to 0.10

32

0.11 to 0.25

33

0.26 to 0.5

29

Greater than 0.5

6

From the above information, we can establish that for two-thirds of teams their first half performance after ten games remains within a quarter point per game for the rest of the season. We also know that a similar number of teams have a similar level of performance in both the first and second halves of matches. We can therefore make a reasonable estimate on how teams will perform after the half time break based on their first half performances after only a quarter of the season has been played.

Be wary of exceptions to the rule

There will always be exceptions to the pattern we can see develop above, and it usually involves the mid-table teams who are often the most difficult to predict. For instance, Crystal Palace had the largest upswing in performance between the first half and second half in the 2016/17 Premier League, before finishing 14th. Meanwhile, Stoke City, who finished one place above them in the table, had the worst downturn in performance between the first and second halves.

There are several factors that could contribute to the exceptions to the aforementioned rule; the impact the cup competitions have on Premier League performance, an integral player being ruled out through injury or a change of manager are just a few examples to consider.

The data above highlights how bettors can rely on consistent performance in both halves of matches for the majority of teams and how early the general performance level is established. We can expect very little change in a team’s performance and the result after 45 minutes of a 90-minute match and therefore use the first half as a guide for live betting on the second half.

Want more help developing a betting strategy? Learn how to calculate expected goals in soccer.

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Andrew's career may have mysteriously taken him from earning a degree in Media to working for a bank, but his true passion has always been soccer. After observing how data has proliferated the sport in recent years, Andrew was quick to see what numbers could tell bettors about "the beautiful game". He is now pursuing a career in analysing football stats and has a keen interest in predicting match outcomes.
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