Extra Attackers and Empty-Net Goals in Soccer

Chiedu Ebie, commissioner of Delta State Ministry of Education in Nigeria, is an avid soccer fan. Chiedu Ebie follows both the Nigerian national team and the Premier League’s Manchester United Football Club.

An empty-net goal can occur in a number of sports, most notably ice hockey and soccer. In certain situations, a team will instruct the goalkeeper to vacate the goal crease in order to put an extra offensive attacker into the game as a means of pressuring the opposing defense. Should the outnumbered defensive team gain possession of the puck or the ball, however, the opponent’s vacated goal instantly becomes an easy target. A goalkeeper is generally pulled only when a team has little hope of winning and feels that suffering an empty-net goal wouldn’t damage their chances of winning.

Both empty-net goals and extra attackers are less common in soccer for a number of reasons. Score differentials play a significant role in many soccer leagues and tournaments, meaning a 1-0 loss is more desirable than a 2-0 loss, which renders the consequences of an empty-net goal too great. Substitutions are far more restricted in soccer as well, meaning that the goalkeeper would need to join the offense downfield rather than leave the game, as is often the case in hockey. These restrictions make empty-net goals, such as Xabi Alonso’s 70-yard score in the 2006 FA Cup final, exceptionally rare.

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