When is a goal worth more than a goal? When you score it on the road for the last 55 years of UEFA competition. But that ends next season, as today the confederation did away with the away goals rule as part of the tie-breaking process in all two-legged continental competition at the men’s, women’s, and youth levels.
The rule was well-intended, giving teams a reason to attack on the road instead of parking the bus and attempting to get out of an opposing stadium with as little damage as possible.
But the law of unintended consequences kicked in eventually, with lower-rated sides instead just grinding out nil-nil draws at home in the hope to win with a single goal on the road. And when some Serie A clubs were involved, it was often a full-blown crisis of negative football.
“Statistics from the mid-1970s until now show a clear trend of continuous reduction in the gap between the number of home/away wins (from 61%/19% to 47%/30%) and the average number of goals per match scored at home/away (from 2.02/0.95 to 1.58/1.15) in men’s competitions, whereas since 2009/10, the average goals per game have remained very steady in the UEFA Women’s Champions League with the overall average of 1.92 for home teams and 1.6 for away teams.”
So now the winner of the matchup will be the team that scores the most goals in two regulation games. If extra time is needed, an additional 30 minutes will be added to the second match. And if it’s still level after that, a penalty kick shootout will determine who advances.
UEFA has done plenty to make the game worse, but this is a move for the better.