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Why Is the Away Goals Rule Being Abolished in UEFA Club Competitions?

Nigel is a football (soccer) fan since his childhood days. He also plays football as a left-back and is a long-time fan of Liverpool Fc.

Why has the away goals rule been removed from UEFA club competitions?

Why has the away goals rule been removed from UEFA club competitions?

What Is the Away Goals Rule?

The away goals rule is a type of tiebreaker commonly seen in tournaments where football teams compete twice, once at each team's home ground. In the event that the total goals for both teams are equal, the team that scored more goals as the away team wins the tie and proceeds to the next round. This advantage often goes to the team that played away in the first leg and scored at least one goal.

In most tournaments that have a two-legged fixture, whoever scores the most goals in both legs wins the matchup and proceeds to the next round. However, in some cases, if the the match ends up in a draw and the away goals rule doesn't break the tie, both teams will proceed to extra time or penalties. The away goals rule may also apply to extra time as well.

Goal scored.

Goal scored.

Some Examples According to Official Football Rules

Here is a look at how the away goals rule can be applied.

Example A:

First leg: The final score is Real Madrid (Home) 1-0 Liverpool FC (Away).
Second leg: The final score is Real Madrid (Away) 0-1 Liverpool FC (Home),

In this case, neither team scored an away goal. Therefore, the match ends at 1-1, and it will proceed to extra time.

Example B:

First Leg: The final score is Liverpool FC (Home) 1-0 Barcelona (Away).
Second Leg: The final score is Liverpool FC (Away) 1-2 Barcelona (Home).

In this case, although the match ended 2-2, Liverpool FC, as the away team, scored an away goal in the second leg while Team B didn't. Therefore, Liverpool FC progresses into the next round.

Example C:

First Leg: Manchester United (Home) 1-0 Sevilla (Away)
Second Leg after 90 minutes: Manchester United (Away) 0-1 Sevilla (Home)
Second Leg after extra time: Manchester United (Away) 1-2 Sevilla (Home)

In this case, the aggregate score after 90 minutes is 1-1, which then proceeds to extra time as no team has scored an away goal. After extra time, the score remains tied at 2-2, but Manchester United has now scored an away goal, thus giving them progress to the next round.

Example D:

First Leg: Chelsea (Home) 1-0 PSG (Away)
Second Leg after 90 minutes: Chelsea (Away) 0-1 PSG (Home)
Second Leg after extra time: Chelsea (Away) 1-2 PSG (home)

In this example, the aggregate score is 2-2 after extra time. However, in this example, away goals rule do not apply during extra time. Therefore, the match goes to a penalty shootout.

Example E:

First Leg: Borussia Dortmund (Home) 1-0 Bayern Munich (Away)
Second Leg after 90 minutes: Borussia Dortmund (Away) 0-1 Bayern Munich (Home)
Second Leg after extra time: Borussia Dortmund (Away) 0-1 Bayern Munich (Home)

In this example, the match ended 1-1 after extra time with both teams not scoring any away goals. Therefore, the match goes to a penalty shootout.

Andreas Iniesta celebrating his goal after scoring the decisive equalizer against Chelsea in 2009.

Andreas Iniesta celebrating his goal after scoring the decisive equalizer against Chelsea in 2009.

Why Was the Away Goals Rule Created?

Created in 1965 by UEFA, the governing body of European football, it was said that the away goals rule was a way to keep the season calendar as minimal as possible for the teams. The idea was to prevent any logistic issues and keep the team's players fit. The rule defeated the purpose of having a tiebreaker on neutral grounds.

The rule also encouraged the away team to be more aggressive. A team that had a poor performance in the first leg would become aggressive in the second leg to win the tie. Matches would be tense as one goal could decide a tie.

Then Tottenham manager, Mauricio Pochettino, celebrating with his team after qualifying for the UEFA Champions League Final in 2019.

Then Tottenham manager, Mauricio Pochettino, celebrating with his team after qualifying for the UEFA Champions League Final in 2019.

Examples of the Away Goals Rule Deciding the Outcome of a Match

  • In the 2007 UEFA Champions League round of 16, Bayern Munich lost 3-2 against Real Madrid at Real's home ground. In the return leg, Bayern Munich won the match 2-1, which led to an aggregate score of 4-4. Bayern advanced to the quarterfinals through the away goals rule.
  • In May 2009, Chelsea faced Barcelona in the semifinals. On the first leg in Barcelona's home ground, both teams ended in a draw of 0-0. In the second leg at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge, Chelsea started the night by scoring an early goal thanks to Michael Essien. However, a stoppage time finale by Andreas Iniesta ended the match at 1-1. Barcelona advanced to the finals on the away goals rule.
  • In 2019, Tottenham Hotspur faced Ajax in the second semifinal match, which sparked another comeback (the first being Liverpool vs Barcelona). On the first leg of the tie, the match ended Ajax 1-0 Tottenham. In the second leg, it was goals galore as Ajax scored another two goals in the early stages while Tottenham responded with two goals as well. Lucas Moura of Tottenham scored his hat trick to make it 3-3 on aggregate. With Tottenham as the away team in the second leg, they won the tie and went to their first UEFA Champions League Final.
Aleksander Ceferin, the UEFA President.

Aleksander Ceferin, the UEFA President.

Abolishment of the Away Goals Rule in UEFA Competitions

The away goals rule can make fans happy or disappoint them. On June 24, 2021, UEFA announced the abolishment of the away goals rule from the start of next season and replaced with the existing extra time and penalty shootout rules.

UEFA's President Aleksander Ceferin said that, "Although this topic was debated in the past, right until recently, and there was no unanimity of views, as many coaches, fans, players and other football stakeholders have questioned its fairness, and has expressed that the rule should be abolished".

Ceferin added, "Playing at home is not an advantage anymore as it was before, aside from home fans, the playing style of the team and other factors can create a difference and can be both an advantage or a disadvantage".

I personally have no issue with the rule change as the football landscape has frequently changed. I believe extra time and penalty shootouts is the most fair way to determine a winner in a two-legged competition. At times, the away goals rule can be a nuisance. A match could get boring as the home team just plays defensive tactics to stop the opposing team from scoring. Although that's why the rule exists, it makes football stale.

© 2021 Nigel Koay Talks Football

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