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What Are Away Goals Rule in Football? & Why Are They Being Abolished in All Uefa 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.

What is an away goals rule?

Away goals rule is a type of tiebreaker commonly seen in tournaments when a Football team plays twice in both team's home grounds. So, the team that scores more goals "Away from home" wins the match and proceeds to the next knockout 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 has a 2-legged match, there is an aggregate score, which means, whoever score the most goals in both legs, win the tie and proceed to the next round. However, in some cases, if the away goals rule is not applied and the match ends up in a draw, both teams will proceed to extra time and penalties.

In such cases, Away goals rule is the first tiebreaker and penalty shoot-outs are the second tiebreaker. At the same time, the rule applies in extra time as well.

Some examples according to Official Football rules

Goal scored

Goal scored

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 will proceed to an extra-time and penalty shootout.

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 being the away team, scored an away goal in the second leg while Team B didn't, thus, 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 and after extra time, the score remains level 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, although after extra time, the score is 2-2 on aggregate, however, in this example, away goals rule do not apply during extra time, thus, it proceeds to a penalty shoot out.

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, thus, the next tie breaker they have to do is a penalty shootout.

Why is away goals rule created?

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.

Created in 1965 by UEFA, the governing body of European Football, it was said that the away goals rule is a way to keep the season calendar as minimal as possible for the teams, so that there will be less logistic issues and keeps the team's players fit, thus it defeats the purpose to have a play-off or tie-breakers on neutral grounds, making it less compact towards the schedule.

However, away goals rule is made to be a challenge for the away team in order to encourage them to be more aggressive. This creates some exciting Football as it creates uncertainty, where a team can lack performance in the first leg, but perform aggressively in the second to win the tie. At the same time, knowing that 1 goal can make a huge difference to the results of the match.

A little more about the Away Goals Rule here!

Evidences Of Away Goals Rule Being The Decisive Outcome Of The Match

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.

Firstly, 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, being the away team in the previous leg, won the match 2-1, thus levelling both teams 4-4 on aggregate, however, Bayern advanced to the Quarter-Finals through away goals rule.

Secondly, in May 2009, Chelsea faced Barcelona in the Semi-Finals and on the first leg in Barcelona's home ground, both teams ended in a draw of 0-0, however, in the second leg, Barcelona was the away team, as they visit 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, however, Barcelona advanced to the final on away goals rule.

Last, a more recent example, was in 2019, where Tottenham Hotspur faced Ajax in the second semi-final match which sparked another come-back (the first being Liverpool vs Barcelona). On the first leg of the tie, the match ended Ajax 1-0 Tottenham , however, in the second leg, it was goals galore as Ajax scored another 2 goals in the early stages and Tottenham was at 2 goals as well, which means the match was levelled at 2-2 (3-2 to Ajax on aggregate). Until Lucas Moura of Tottenham scored his hat-trick to make it 3-3 on aggregate but Tottenham being the away team in the 2nd leg, won and went to their first UEFA Champions League Final.

Abolishment of the Away goals rule in all UEFA Competitions and what do I think about it?

Aleksander Ceferin, the UEFA President

Aleksander Ceferin, the UEFA President

Away goals rule is one crucial rule that can make fans happy or disappoint them, that's the nature of Football, anything can happen. Just recently, on June 24th 2021, UEFA announced the abolishment of the away goals rule from the start of next season and replaced with the existing, extra time and penalties shoot out rules.

UEFA's President Aleksander Ceferin, when asked, 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 it's 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 changed and to me, extra time and penalty shoot outs is the most fair way to determine a winner in a two legged competition and it's there for a reason. At times, away goals rule can be a nuisance as sometimes, the match could get boring as the home team just plays ultra defensive tactics to stop the opposing team with an away goal from scoring, although that's exactly what the rule is made for, it makes football stale.

What do you think about the rule change? do drop your opinions on the comment section below!

A heated debate between ESPN pundits regarding the away goals rule

The Summary In a chart by Wikipedia

A chart that shows where away goals rule apply.

A chart that shows where away goals rule apply.

© 2021 Nigel Koay Talks Football

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