Atlético Madrid lost 1-0; Real Madrid lost 4-3. In the Champions League now for the second leg it’s all the same: you need to win by one for extra-time and two to go through. But, what a different feeling! It’s true that the result in the Manchester City - Real Madrid Champions League semifinal first leg was thanks to a heap of defensive mistakes, but not even that changes the sensation the two different games left us with. While the effect of the result of the two games is arithmetically the same for the second legs in both cases, that would not have been the situation if away goals still counted in the event of a draw in the tie. A year ago Madrid’s 4-3 would have been pretty close to a decent result, while Atlético’s would have been pretty close to a terrible one.
Away goals rule survey
Yesterday I got in touch with whole heap of friends, acquaintances and associates, all people who are involved in football. Coaches, executives, referees, journalists, even the occasional politician with a healthy interest - a broad sample of folk you could say - to find out if they prefer the old way or the new way. More or less half prefer how it is now, a little more than a quarter the old system, and the rest need more time to decide. From so many emails I was able to pick decent arguments in favour of both points of view. I think the most devastating argument against the old away goals rule was that it allowed a team to go through with two draws (see Eindhoven in 1988). And the advantage in extra-time, of course.
No away goals, more exciting games...
The idea of rewarding away goals, which was conjured up in the 60s to encourage visiting sides, over time led to the home side being scared to take any risks. Mourinho and Simeone are example of the plan of going for a 0-0 at home, trusting in landing a 1-1 away. Having got rid of the fear of away goals, we can expect higher octane games, more direct and possibly fairer. In exchange, someone said to me, you lose the slightly random effect of a goal that can change everything. My preference is for the current system (which brings back the old way, how it was when I started going to football). Although over and above any discussion, there will always be a coach who prefers to lose 1-0 more than 4-3, and vice-versa.