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Champions League round of 16: what is the situation with away goals?

Ahead of the 2021-22 season, UEFA made a decision that plays a significant role in knockout rounds of the Champions, Europa and Conference Leagues.

Champions League round of 16: what is the situation with away goals?

As the teams for the quarter final draw continue to be added to the pots, it's worth remembering that there is a notable difference in the way games are being decided. For the 2021-22 season, UEFA decided to do away with the away goals rule for the knockout stages of the Champions League, Europa League and the new Conference League competitions. 

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Gone are the days when a 3-3 draw away from home in the final rounds would be deemed as an excellent result with many experts claiming that this new rule will see more knockout ties being decided in extra time or indeed via penalty shoot-outs. 

Ruling from 1965

Official match ball displaying the logo of the 2022 UEFA Champions League.
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Official match ball displaying the logo of the 2022 UEFA Champions League.PHIL NOBLEREUTERS

Introduced in 1965, the away goals rule stated that all goals scored by the visiting team in both home and away legs would count as double if the aggregate score ended level. Many famous victories in the Champions League have been celebrated due to the away goals rule over the years - Andrés Iniesta broke Chelsea's hearts by bagging a stoppage-time winner at Stamford Bridge in the 2008/9 semi-final - the tie ended 1-1 but it was Barça, as the visitors, who advanced.

The Catalans found out what it feels like to be on the receiving end of the away goals rule when Roma heroically clawed their way back after losing the first leg 4-1 to win 3-0 on home soil. The tie ended 4-4 on aggregate but Dzeko's goal at Camp Nou counted as double, so the Italians progressed to the semis.

Barcelona comeback in 2017

The 'away goal' rule was also instrumental in creating another layer of drama in the biggest Champions League comebacks in recent times as Barcelona ousted PSG in March 2017 with a 6-1 win on the night. The Catalan side lost the first leg in Paris 4-0 and were cruising to a 3-0 in the second leg when Cavani struck for PSG in the 62nd minute.

This away goal for the French side delivered another layer of pressure for Barça who now trailed the tie 3-5 on aggregate and with the away goal, now needed three goals to advance with PSG's away goal counting double should the tie have ended 5-5. A brace from Neymar and Sergi Roberto's 95th minute winner ensured that Luis Enrique's men advanced in a historic night.

UEFA's position

Upon confirming the removal of the abolishing of the away goals rule, UEFA stated:  “With the decision to remove this rule, ties in which the two teams score the same number of goals over the two legs would be not decided on the number of goals scored away, but two 15-minute periods of extra time are played at the end of the second leg and in case the teams score the same number of goals or no goals during this extra time, penalties would determine the team which qualifies to the next stage of the competition”.

Some fans are already disgruntled about abolishing the away goals rule. Will it lead to more competitive ties, second legs ? Only time will tell...