Uefa’s president Alexander Ceferin stated that the decision to abolish the rule, which will also apply in the Europa League and Conference League, had been taken as a matter of “fairness” and to encourage more attacking football.
The suggestion from Uefa was that the 1965 rule was no longer fit for purpose in the modern game, that its original purpose to give away teams a greater incentive to attack against hostile home crowds is not as big a factor as it once was.
It means that two-legged ties that are level at the end of 180 minutes will now enter an extra-time period of 30 minutes and, if there is still no winner, a penalty shootout. It is likely that the rule change will lead to an increase in shootouts as they were something of a rarity during the away goals era.
“The away goals rule has been an intrinsic part of Uefa competitions since it was introduced in 1965,” Ceferin said. “However, the question of its abolition has been debated at various Uefa meetings over the last few years. Although there was no unanimity of views, many coaches, fans and other football stakeholders have questioned its fairness and have expressed a preference for the rule to be abolished.”
He added: “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.
“It is fair to say that home advantage is nowadays no longer as significant as it once was. Taking into consideration the consistency across Europe in terms of styles of play, and many different factors which have led to a decline in home advantage, the Uefa Executive Committee has taken the correct decision in adopting the view that it is no longer appropriate for an away goal to carry more weight than one scored at home.”
Although some questioned the fairness of away goals, others believe that the competition is poorer without it given some of the greatest games in the Champions League era were settled by the method.
Tottenham reached the final in 2019 after overcoming a 3-0 aggregate deficit to draw 3-3 against Ajax with Lucas Moura scoring a hat-trick. In 2018, Roma completed a miraculous comeback against Barcelona by winning 3-0 in Rome after losing 4-1 in Spain in the first leg.
In one of the first knockout games staged since the abolition of the away goals rule, Real Madrid were accused of employing negative tactics for their Champions League last-16 first leg against PSG in the Parc des Princes.
Real had only three shots on goal in the entire game, none of which were on target, but were eventually undone by a magnificent solo goal from Kylian Mbappe in second half injury time.
“The away goal meant a team could go from winning a game to losing a game,” said Jamie Carragher. “That couldn’t happen at any other time in football and it created so much tension and suspense in stadiums around Europe.
“I just think we’re going to lose that now, we’ll see more penalty shootouts and hopefully we won’t see more teams playing like Real Madrid did. Maybe they would have played like that anyway, I don’t know.
“But there’s not that incentive to be a little bit more on the front foot away from home and I think it’s a really poor decision [from Uefa].”
Five memorable Champions League ties settled on away goals
Ajax 2-3 Tottenham (2019)
“Here’s Dele Alli, here’s Lucas Moura… OH! They’ve done it. I cannot believe it. Lucas Moura with the last kick of the game! The Ajax players collapse to the ground. Tottenham Hotspur are heading to the Champions League final!”
Yes, this really did happen. Tottenham found themselves 3-0 down on aggregate to Ajax in the 2018-19 Champions League semi-final, but an incredible hat-trick from Lucas Moura, featuring a 95th minute winner, sent Mauricio Pochettino’s side through to the final for the first time in the club’s history.
PSG 3-3 Manchester United (2019)
A result that effectively secured Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the Manchester United gig on a permanent basis. United had been comprehensively schooled by PSG in the first leg, losing 2-0 at Old Trafford and took a depleted squad to Paris for the return game.
Within half an hour, they had reduced the deficit to one goal, Romelu Lukaku scoring twice either side of a Juan Bernat strike before Marcus Rashford scored the winner from the penalty spot with 90+4 minutes on the clock following a contentious handball decision.
Manchester City 4-4 Tottenham (2019)
Tottenham’s miraculous comeback in Amsterdam was their second away goals triumph in successive rounds after they had beaten Manchester City in similarly bonkers circumstances in the quarters.
Incredibly, City found themselves 3-2 up on the night after only 21 minutes of the second leg at the Etihad after a 1-0 reverse in north London. They went 4-3 up on aggregate courtesy of Sergio Aguero before Fernando Llorente levelled the tie after bundling the ball in with his hip.
And then deep into added time, Raheem Sterling thought he had scored the goal to send City through, only for VAR to intervene and rule it out for offside, therefore, ensuring that Spurs progressed instead.
Roma 4-4 Barcelona (2018)
Over the past few seasons, Barcelona have made losing Champions League ties an art form. A humiliating 4-1 defeat at Camp Nou last season followed an 8-2 thrashing against Bayern Munich in 2020, which came after a 4-3 defeat to Liverpool after a 3-0 first leg win.
Embarrassing as those defeats were, they did at least come against excellent teams. That wasn’t necessarily the case in 2018, when Barcelona chucked away a 4-1 aggregate lead to go out to Roma in the quarter final, with Kostas Manolas, the “Greek God of Rome” as Peter Drury famously put it, scoring the winner eight minutes from time.
Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona (2009)
A game of extraordinary goals… and an extraordinary meltdown from Didier Drogba. Michael Essien got Stamford Bridge rocking early on in the second leg with a magnificent dipping volley from 25 yards out via his weaker left foot.
Chelsea had numerous penalty appeals waved away by Norwegian referee Tom Ovrebo as they sought a second to kill the game off, before Andres Iniesta popped up with a stunning equaliser in injury time to send Pep Guardiola’s team through.
“It’s a f_____g disgrace!” fumed an irate Drogba fumed in front of the TV cameras.
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