The Champions League knockout rounds have been a bit different this season in an attempt to create “fairness” and encourage more attacking football.
In June last year, UEFA took the decision to abolish the away goals rule in the knockout rounds of all the European competitions. The rule was introduced in 1965, and stated if two teams were level on aggregate after two legs then the team with the most away goals would be the winner.
An example of a famous victory due to the away goals rule would be Barcelona advancing to the 2008/09 Champions League final even though the aggregate score against Chelsea ended 1-1. Andrés Iniesta’s stoppage-time equaliser at Stamford Bridge was the decisive factor after Chelsea failed to score an away goal in the first leg at the Nou Camp, which had ended 0-0.
But there is no longer a need to work out how many away goals each team has scored to understand which team goes through.
Every goal scored in the two legs will count the same. If over the two legs the aggregate score is level, there will be two 15-minute periods of extra time and, if necessary, penalties.
Why did UEFA abolish the away goals rule?
The away goals rule was brought in with the idea to incentivise the visitors to attack instead of “parking the bus”.
According to UEFA, the reason for abolishing the away goals rule was that over the years the home advantage has levelled out
“From the mid-1970’s until now show a clear trend of continuous reduction in the gap of home/away wins.” UEFA stated.
“The away goals rule has been an intrinsic part of UEFA competitions since it was introduced in 1965. However, the question of its abolition has been debated at various UEFA meetings over the last few years.
“The impact of the rule now runs counter to its original purpose as, in fact, it now dissuades home teams – especially in first legs – from attacking, because they fear conceding a goal that would give their opponents a crucial advantage.
“There is also criticism of the unfairness, especially in extra time, of obliging the home team to score twice when the away team has scored.”