What Counts As A Shot On Target In Football

The Ultimate Guide To Shots On Target In Football

Last updated on July 24th, 2021

You may have seen the statistic ‘shots on target’ shown on many football websites.

However, what does a shot on target actually mean?

Here’s what you need to know:

What counts as a shot on target in football?

A shot on target is either any shot that goes into the goal, a shot that is saved by the goalkeeper or one where the last man blocks the ball. In the last two scenarios, the ball must have a clear chance of going into the net.

Here is the official definition by Opta regarding a shot on target:

A shot on target is defined as any goal attempt that:

• Goes into the net regardless of intent.
• Is a clear attempt to score that would have gone into the net but for being saved by the goalkeeper or is stopped by a player who is the last-man with the goalkeeper having no chance of preventing the goal (last line block).

A shot on target has to be a goal attempt. This means that the player must have a clear intention of scoring the goal!

For example, SkyBet defines “Crosses that would be going into the goal, but the goalkeeper catches/tips around for a corner” as a shot off target.

This is because the player who crossed the ball did not have the intent of scoring a goal!

The only time when the intent does not matter is when the ball goes into the net. No matter what, a shot on target will be awarded.

Goal-line clearances are shots on target too

The last line block is quite an interesting scenario. The ball has to be beyond the goalkeeper’s reach, and the person who stops the ball has to be the last man.

In this case, the last man is the player that is the closest to the goal-line. This usually happens when the goalkeeper goes out of his goal!

This scenario usually occurs when the defender makes a goal-line clearance!

For these kind of shots, a shot on target will be awarded to the player who made the attempt.

There are some scenarios where a shot is considered not on target

The definition also gives 2 scenarios where the shot will not be awarded as a shot on target:

  • Shots directly hitting the frame of the goal are not counted as shots on target, unless the ball goes in and is awarded as a goal.
  • Shots blocked by another player, who is not the last-man, are not counted as shots on target.

As such, Opta gives a rather clear-cut definition on what should be considered as a shot on target!

Is a goal a shot on target?

A goal will be awarded as a shot on target. This is because any shot where the ball goes into the net will be considered as a shot on target.

It does not matter how the goal is scored, or whether the player who last touched the ball intended to score.

However if the team is to be awarded a goal, the ball has to completely cross the line first!

Is a penalty a shot on target?

A penalty will only be considered as a shot on target if the shot either goes into the goal, or is saved by the goalkeeper. Penalty shots that hit the post or goes wide of the goal will be considered as a shot off target instead.

In most scenarios, a penalty will result in a shot on target. This is because a penalty shot is a goal attempt, where the player has an intent to score.

For a penalty, the third scenario will not occur. This is because any player other than the penalty taker or the goalkeeper has to be 9.15m away from the penalty mark!

However, it will not be considered as a shot on target if the penalty taker either:

  1. Hits the post
  2. Goes completely off target

It does take a lot of skill to score a penalty, especially to send the goalkeeper in the wrong direction!

Is a header a shot on target?

A header will be awarded as a shot on target if it is a goal attempt that enters the goal or would have gone into the goal if not for a goalkeeper save or a last line block by the last man.

However if a header hits the post or does not go into the net at all, it will not be considered as a shot off target!

You can see the first header in this match between Liverpool and RB Leipzig. Dani Olmo attempted a diving header, but it only hit the post.

As such, Olmo was only awarded with an attempt, but it was not on target.

If you’re wondering what’s the meaning of RB in RB Leipzig, you can read my guide to German football team names.

The player must have an intent to score with the header

Moreover, the header has to be a goal attempt too.

For example, SkyBet defines “a headed/non-headed flick on which runs through to the goalkeeper from a corner/free kick” to be considered as a shot off target.

This is because a flick on has no intent to score a goal. The player must head the ball with an intent to score, if not it won’t be a shot on target!

Is a corner a shot on target?

A corner will be considered as a shot on target if it enters the goal, or it forces a goalkeeper save or a last line block. A corner kick that hits the post will not be a shot on target.

It is really hard to score from a corner kick! However, there are quite a few instances where a player can score from one!

So long as the ball goes into the goal from a corner kick, it will be considered as a shot on target.

Interestingly, SkyBet defines “A corner that would be going into the goal, but the goalkeeper stops the ball from going in” as being a shot off target.

I believe that if the corner kick taker had a clear intention to score, then it should be considered as a shot on target!

A corner kick also one of the 3 set pieces where you cannot be offside from.

Is a free kick a shot on target?

A free kick will be a shot on target if the shot results in a goal, or it would have gone in if not for a goalkeeper save or a last line block. The player must have a clear intent of scoring for the shot to be awarded as a shot on target.

Like every other shot, the free kick taker must have an intent to score from the free kick. Only then will a shot on target be awarded.

Interestingly, the free kick is the only set piece where you can be offside from!

Does hitting the post count as a shot on target?

Hitting the post does not count as a shot on target. The posts only define the goal, but they are not part of the goal. As such, a shot that hits the post will be considered as off target instead.

No matter how nice the goal would have been, it will still not be considered as a shot on target!

However, if a shot hits the post but goes in the goal, a shot on target will be awarded.

You can read more in my writeup on shots hitting the post being considered as off target.

Is a blocked shot a shot on target?

If a defender who is not the last man blocks the shot, it will be classified as a blocked shot and not as a shot on target. Only shots that are blocked by the last man will be counted as a shot on target.

Defenders will normally put their bodies on the line to block a shot. When they do so, it may prevent the goal from being scored.

In some cases, the ball will go off target after the defender blocks your shot. This will be considered as a shot off target.

Is a deflected shot a shot on target?

A deflected shot is a shot that hits a defender before entering the net. If the deflected shot either enters the net or is saved by the goalkeeper, it will be considered as a shot on target.

When the defender deflects the ball, it will be considered to be a shot on target if:

  • The shot enters the goal
  • The shot is saved by the goalkeeper

Here are some examples of deflected shots that count as a shot on target as they were saved by the goalkeeper.

Does an own goal count as a shot on target?

As a general rule, own goals will be counted as shots on target. This is Opta states that any shot that results in the ball entering the net (including an own goal) will be considered as a shot on target.

So long as the ball goes into the net, it will be considered a shot on target! It does not matter who puts the ball into the net.

It is interesting to see whether a shot on target will be credited to the defender who scores the own goal!

However, most football statistic sites calculate shots on target as a team statistic, rather than an individual’s statistic.

You can view my comparison between an own goal and a deflected shot to find out the differences between them.

Does a shot on target count if you commit an offside offence?

If you are called for offside when you attempt your shot, it will not count as a shot on target. This is because the shot was attempted after the referee has stopped play for an offence. Any shot that happens after play has stopped will not be counted.

One of the famous incidents is when Robin van Persie getting a yellow card for an offside offence. He attempted a shot on goal even after the referee blew his whistle.

Even if his shot had been on target, it would not have counted!

Conclusion

There are strict rules that define what is considered as a shot on target, including:

  1. Any ball that goes into the goal
  2. Any ball that is going into the goal but is saved by the goalkeeper
  3. Any ball that is going into the goal but the last man blocks it

So long as any shot meets any of these 3 criteria, it will be considered as a shot on target. It does not matter whether it is a free kick, corner, or even an own goal!

For the last 2 scenarios, there has to be an intent to score. If a player is judged to either cross or flick on the ball which results in a goalkeeper save, it will not be considered as a shot on target!

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