Despite the effects of COVID-19 Pandemic; UEFA continued to implement the “Away Goals” Rule for the Knockout Rounds in the Champions League and Europa League this Season.
The ongoing Campaign itself has seen many Clubs unable to play at home; yet the “Away Goals” Rule remains in place, thereby making the Rule all the more absurd.
Even both the First Leg as well as the Second Leg Ties between Liverpool Fc (The Reds) and the German side RB Leipzig took place in Budapest (Hungary) due to the German Government’s COVID-19 restrictions on travelling from Germany to the UK.
Thankfully; the Reds eventually advanced to the Champions League 2020-21 Quarter-finals, after knocking out RB Leipzig in the Champions League 2020-21 Round of 16 over the Two Legs.
The Reds beat the makeshift “hosts” RB Leipzig in the First Leg of the Champions League 2020-21 Round of 16 thereby making the return Leg more of a formality as the Reds gained from the advantage of this absurd Rule.
Given the effects of the COVID-19, the “Away Goals” Rule is such an absurd Rule and in recent times, other Competitions have long got rid of the “Away Goals” Rule.
The English Football League for instance scrapped the “Away Goals” Rule since the Carabao Cup 2018-19 Competition, with the drawn ties going straight to penalties instead of the “Away Goals” Rule coming into play after Extra Time in that Tournament.
Interestingly the “Away Goals” Rule was introduced in 1965, following the Reds progression to the European Cup 1964-65 Semi-finals.
After the two Legs of the European Cup 1964-65 Quarter-final between the Reds and Fc Köln remained 2-2 on aggregate; the Reds progression was decided by flipping a Coin.
It is worth to point that a cross-continent trip in the 1960s was not as comfortable as it is now. The Matchday experiences back then was not comfortable for either the visiting Team or their travelling Supporters as well.
So, what is the “Away Goals” Rule?
In the Champions League and Europa League; if two Teams are level on aggregate after 180 minutes of Football, then the Team that has scored more Goals Away from home will be deemed the winner.
For instance, Tottenham Fc (Spurs) reached the Champions League 2019-20 Final on Away Goals after drawing 3-3 over two legs in their Semi-final against AFC Ajax.
Spurs lost the First Leg at home 0-1 but won their away leg 2-3, thanks to Lucas Moura’s 96th-minute strike levelling the score on aggregate and forcing the Away Goals Tiebreaker.
However a result cannot be determined by “Away Goals”; if both Teams have scored the same number of Goals home and away after 180 minutes of football.
If that happens; a (standard) additional 30 minute period of Extra Time is played.
Are the “Away Goals” matters in extra time this Season?
Yes, both in the Champions League and Europa League.
Under the “Away Goals” Rule; if the away Team takes the lead in extra time, the home Team must score twice to progress.
The Spanish side Atlético Madrid benefited this during the Reds Champions League 2019-20 Round of 16 Second Leg at Anfield.
Trailing 0-1 from the Champions League 2019-20 Round of 16 First Leg, Georginio Wijnaldum levelled the first leg deficit for theReds at Anfield.
Then early in Extra Time Roberto Firmino gave Liverpool a decisive edge and nny slip up from the Reds meant that they needed to score twice to progress to the next round.
Then a Goalkeeping Blunder from Adrián eventually led to Marcos Llorente making it it 2-1 for Atlético Madrid for the Second Leg and 2-2 on aggregate.
As an Away Goal is counted as double; the Reds were effectively done and eventually got knocked out of the Champions League 2019-20 on 2-3 aggregate!
Are the “Away Goals” matters at Neutral Venues this Season?
Yes. Due to each Countries COVID-19 Restrictions; several Clubs were forced to play their Champions League and Europa League home Legs at neutral venues.
After 180 minutes if the aggregate score is level; then “Away Goals” will still count and be used as a Tiebreaker regardless whether only one Team would have played at their home ground.
Are there any other complications relating to the “Away Goal” Rule?
“Away Goals” itself does not ‘count as double’ despite being just a Figure of Speech. However; The “Away Goals” in and of themselves do not count as ‘double’. This adds further to the complications and intricacies relating to the “Away Goal” Rule.
For instance; if a visiting Team is losing 4-0 on aggregate but suddenly pulls one back during the Second Leg, the aggregate score is instead 4-1 (not 4-2), and they would still need to score at least another three to progress.
Verdict: Many Football Critics, Pundits, Experts, Coaches and many others had repeatedly pointed out the deficiencies of the absurd “Away Goals” Rule.
Football as a game itself is evolving and as such; it is illogical as well as counterproductive to persist with the “Away Goals” Rule as a means to decide the Tiebreaker.
Even if it may have served the purpose especially back when it was first introduced in 1965; the “Away Goals” Rule is clearly dated and further ruins the beauty of the modern game of Football.
So like other Football Confederations; the relevant UEFA Authorities does need to ascertain better Rules to determine Tiebreakers that are more in sync with the modern game of Football.
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