DEATH BLOW GOALS
When a team scores a second goal, their odds to win increase the most drastically — 28% to 65%. Get your second goal, and your team is more likely to win. After getting a third, all percentage jumps diminish, in other words, your third goal is nearly as likely to win you the game as your fourth is, and the fourth even more equal to the fifth. Get your third and you have an 85% chance of winning. Scoring any more is unnecessary.
So the third goal is the death blow. In sports, that means it’s the goal that assures your team will win. If you get a third, you're showing your attack is dominant and will score as long as the game keeps going. It’s a kingly feeling, but, of course, executions should be swift and painless.
Let’s look at Barcelona deliver Deportivo La Coruna their knock on the head.
Goal one comes after only 20 minutes — a shot from Rafinha that could have been saved if not for its power.
Goal two is Rafinha again, the 36th minute.
The ball is bouncing in the box, the Brazilian slaps it in from close range.
It's too easy.
It’s not even halftime and Barca have their second. They’re at 65%, but that’s not enough. The best teams want death blows. They want three, four goals because they want teams to have statistical proof that they’re dead before the game even starts.
In the 43rd minute, Barca are back hunting, pinging the ball around in Deportivo’s defensive end. They are patient but quick and explorative. They prod Deportivo everywhere, ruling their opponent’s territory like only a master can.
The move starts with Rafinha again. He has the ball on the right side of the field, and his pass to Gerard Piqué in the center beats three defenders. Piqué receives the ball and takes a big step forward into Deportivo’s gut. He switches play to the left side to see what damage Neymar can do. The pass is to the left corner of the penalty box and Lucas Digne, Barca newcomer, mistakenly takes it from the Brazilian.
Neymar is given the ball. Four defenders watch him, one steps up. His options are Digne to his left, Luis Suarez straight ahead, or reach down and find some twist of skills that will skin all four Deportivo guys. He takes his time with the decision, a luxury of superiority.
Suarez wants in. He's at the top of the box and senses his defender is too close. He needs to make space, but how to do it when you’re in a crowded penalty box? Defenders are especially zoned in, sensitive, so use their instinct to protect the goal.
The touch Neymar takes before the pass, that last nudge that is a little bit farther out than any of his previous nudges is the bullet slipping into the chamber. His strike is a poke with his outside toes. The ball rides a rope to Suarez who chops it into space behind the defender. Then blast -- death blow.
Suarez sprints at goal as if he’ll make a run to it, the defender has to guard that, so he sprints for the goal too. But Suarez pulls up, and for half a second, space for the ball exists. It’s a genius move — simple and manipulative. Neymar just has to be in tune and find the channel to deliver it. Does he have the precision to do it?
Barca have all but sured up their win, 85% chance now, death blow administered. A fourth goal is, virtually, a kick to the head of a corpse. But three isn't as fun as four and sports aren't about percentages. They're spectacle.
Messi loves a thrashing.
He gives his early in the second half. He rumbles through the Deportivo box, cutting horizontally to the left, leaving the defense in crumbles. He nearly gets pushed over, but sticks his tongue out and stays up long enough to fire one last shot into the Deportivo net.
He has to somersault to stop himself. He stands for his crowd.