Stats are great adjectives, but particularly in soccer, they’re hardly ever nouns. They can be used to describe what you saw happen, but they can’t be trusted to fully describe what you haven’t seen. You have to know what caused the number.
Take today’s game in Belgium. Jupiler League champions Anderlecht more than doubled Olympiacos’s shots (18-8) and held 61 percent of the ball, yet they still lost by three goals. Does that mean the Belgians were unlucky? Hardly. And early goal from Konstantinos Mitroglou (his first of three) meant those numbers were always going to be lopsided, the Greek champions content to play without the ball, particularly with a lead. The final shots on goal were 4-4, but Anderlecht have no blame to being their visitors’ equal.
Then there’s the game in Paris, which saw Benfica put up comparable numbers to Paris Saint-Germain in shots (11-9) and shots on goal (6-4). But they were routed, 3-0. The possession number (71 percent for PSG) hints the hosts controlled the game, gave up some chances, but were set apart by the better execution going toward goal, and while that’s partly true, a better description of the match would cast PSG as dominant in the first half (going into intermission up three) while seeing Benfica even out the shots on goal during a mostly benign second period.
Among the other numbers that stood out today, Bayer Leverkusen bounced back from round one disappointment with a win over Real Sociedad, posting Wednesday highs of 25 shots and 11 shots on goal. PSG’s 71 percent possession was the day’s best, while Galatasaray were able to get two goals in Turin despite holding only 41 percent of the ball. And the day’s most lopsided scoreline, Real Madrid’s 4-0 win over visiting Copenhagen, saw los Blancos put only seven shots on frame.
Here are the rest of the day’s key numbers, courtesy of Opta and WhoScored.com:
|A||Shakhtar Donetsk-Manchester United||1-1||6-4||2-1||57-43|
|A||Bayer Leverkusen-Real Sociedad||2-1||25-11||11-7||44-56|
|D||CSKA Moscow-Viktoria Plzen (Final)||3-2||18-12||6-5||48-52|
|D||Manchester City-Bayern Munich||1-3||9-20||3-8||34-66|