It takes 90+ minutes to watch a football match and we look forward to the goals that separates the teams on the pitch. While other measurements like ball possession, clean sheets and shots on targets are vital, the number of goals is the major factor in determining a winner.

90 minutes is a long time to have as many goals as possible but goals scored towards the end of a football match tend to give more emotional outputs when compared to earlier goals. From Prince Aggreh’s 93rd minute winner for Kano Pillars against Rangers to Danny Welbeck’s 95th minute winner for Arsenal against Leicester City in 2016, late goals ignites a different level of emotion – from awe in a team to anguish in another, form ecstasy to excruciating feelings.

The Nigeria Professional Football League is not exempted from the thrills of these late goals. For analytical purposes, we would define late goals as goals scored after the 90th minute – in added time. While late goals are not unexpected in football globally, it is seen as an indication of corruption and match mixing in the NPFL. This is the case especially when the home side benefits from these late goals, and when the goals come from the penalty spot.

In comparison with the Premier League – the most watched league in the world, the NPFL is not as bad as portrayed when it comes to late goals. In the 2015/16 season, the NPFL recorded 27 late goals which equates to 3.7% of the 735 goals scored that season. The percentage and number of goals were higher for the same season in the Premier League – 49 late goals scored (4.8% of 1025 goals scored).

Late Goals 1

In the following season, 68 late goals were scored in the Premier League as against 35 in the NPFL. These translates to 6.4% and 4.6% of their the goals scored in the respective leagues. While there are more goals scored in the Premier League, the Premier League edges out the NPFL in relative amount of late goals scored – 5.6% vs 4.1% – considering 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons only.

There is nothing more heart-breaking than conceding a penalty in added time, especially when you are leading with a single goal or you were holding out for a draw. Nigerians frown at late penalty goals even without watching the highlight to ascertain the eligibility of the penalty. The default response is that the penalty was awarded dubiously.

Late Goals 2

Since the 2015/16 season, the NPFL averages 8 late penalty goals per season except the incomplete 2017/18 season with 5 goals from the spot. There were 16 late penalty goals between the 2015/16 and 2016/17 season in the NPFL which is 1.1% of the total amount of goals scored in these seasons. Minimal? In the Premier League, 15 late penalty goals were scored which is 0.6% of the 2089 goals scored in 2015/16 and 2016/17.

Putting these stats in another perspective, the 15 late penalty goals scored in the Premier League accounts for 1.3% of the total 2089 points awarded to the teams. For the NPFL, the 16 late goals accounts for a lower percentage – 1.1% of the total 2019 points. Not bad. Similar.

Along the Home – Away divide, the away team in the NPFL is marginally less likely to win a penalty in added time. Only 25% of the total late penalty goals in the NPFL are scored by the away side, while the Premier League averaged 30.8% in the two seasons analysed. Although in the 2016/17 season, the Premier League recorded just one away late penalty goal. The 2017/18 NPFL didn’t record a single late penalty goal scored by an away side.

In summary, late goals are part of the game. The NPFL is not exempted from the thrills that they bring, even if they are scored from the spot.



Additional data collation by King Divine (@iamdeestinct) & Okwudili Neul (@OkwudiliNuel).

Data Source – Personnel database, the Premier League, @OptaNGR, @LMCNPFL