The most important time in the game of football?

One of the things I have never understood about football fans – apart from why anyone would rate Darron Gibson – is the way people leave before the end, especially when the game is in the balance. Think of the amount of times goals have been scored in the last ten minutes, or even a player sent off or some kind of drama occurring. By leaving football fans miss this, and it was a comment made by under fire Chelsea manager AVB that really got me thinking about the issue this week.

AVB questioned why Chelsea have lost points in games this season through late goals, when teams such as United usually end up winning games near the end – or during the aptly named ‘Fergie time.’ Well unfortunately for AVB the answer is fairly simple – until his Blues side learn to defend they will always be susceptible to conceding late goals, and having Torres as your number nine does not make you likely to score them either.

It is in the Champions League this has cost Chelsea the most, with a late penalty given by Kalou at the Mestalla and then after having the lead, two cheap goals to Bayer Leverkusen, one of which was in the dying seconds. It is goals like this that cost teams, and had Chelsea held on for the point, or even the victory against Valencia, instead of conceding needless goals, they would be in a far better position in their group, not looking ahead to fun filled Thursday night fixtures.

It was not always the case for Chelsea, under Mourinho they had the knack of scoring late goals – memorably the opening fixture of the 2005-2006 campaign against newly promoted Wigan, when Crespo broke all hearts with a goal at the death, or to save their unbeaten home record against Arsenal with an Essien stunner.

It is the mark of a good team that they are able to do this, and even if things look over – and fans decide to leave to spare themselves the pain and humiliation – or just to get a head start in the queue for the journey home – they can miss the best moments in a game.

Think back to the 99 Champions League final between United and Bayern – going into injury time United were losing and all looked lost – they managed to score two goals and win the game. Much the same with Iniesta who scored against Chelsea to take Barcelona through on away goals to the 2009 final. For all the fans who headed to the tube none the wiser, they would have suffered a nasty shock when turning on sky sports news at home.

Yes, football is a game of 90 minutes, and if your team are 3 down at half time –unless you are Liverpool – it is probably safe to say you can go home, or at least get in the line for a pie before returning, but the last ten minutes seem to bring out a different side of teams. Call it what you will – desperation, heart, passion – but a shocking amount of action can happen in the dying minutes of an otherwise dull game, and change the course of a season or win a team a trophy.

It does seem to be the same teams popping up over and over again with these late goals – Liverpool and United have a history of comebacks, and perhaps it is the so called ‘best teams’ who change games late on more than others, but I can guarantee no matter who you support, from Liverpool to Luton, you can think of an example when your team have scored in the dying seconds to win a game. You can probably think of a time when you have lost either a goal or a man as well, but the point remains the same – the last ten minutes can often be the most important in the whole game – just make sure you’re not hearing about them from the car park!


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