Next month the UEFA Champion League will resume to the knockout stages starting from the second round until the semi-final that will decide on which two teams will be in the final this year in Millennium Stadium Cardiff to be crowned the champion. Will Real Madrid become the first team since AC Milan to lift the trophies 2 consecutive times, how far Leicester City will progress in this competition, will Pepe Guardiola be able to make Manchester City as a top European team, can Barcelona and their Holy Trinity of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar able to lift Barcelona’s 6th European trophy and many more will be answered starting from the knockout stages next month.
They also another prospect where any team can be knocked out via an away goal rules. The away goal rules were created during a time where travel can be an uncomfortable journey across European at that time and away goal was created to encourage the away team to be more adventurous in that games. At some time, it is also a tie breaker method to avoid the difficulties of playing a replay game as during this time they are no penalty shootout to decide the outcome of the games.
What is an away goal rules? When both teams had tied in aggregated the team that scored the more away goal will win the tie as the away goal will be count as double in this circumstances. This method will be applied in the home and away 2 legged knockout stages games. If both team still leveled on aggregate then the dreaded penalty shootout will be used to decide the winner and before the penalty shootout, it was a replay in a neutral ground. The term a goal can change a game in an instant will be applicable as the team will either defend their lives or making an all-out attack to win or avoid been knocked out by an away goal rules. This will result in many fascinating contests in the UCL knockout stages where the away goal had played a key part in deciding the outcome of the games.
One of the famous games is between Barcelona and Chelsea in 2012 semi-final. Chelsea had won the UCL for the first time in 2012 and their semi-final games against Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona who called as the greatest club football team ever is one of the Chelsea best games in the club history. In the first leg at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea had won 1-0 and stopped Barcelona from scoring. Although Barcelona is still the favorites, Chelsea had gained advantages in this situation as it will provide the crucial factor in this games. In the return leg, Barcelona had stormed to 2-0 lead thanks to Sergio Busquets and Andreas Iniesta but Chelsea had given the ultimate sucker punch where Ramirez had scored the crucial away goal at the end of the first half. Now Barcelona needs to score another goal and at some time exposed themselves to counter-attack from Chelsea in the search on winning goal. The end Barcelona unable to score the 3rd goal and Chelsea had scored via Fernando Torres in a counter attack to give Chelsea a 2-2 draw and the results Barcelona had been knocked out in the semi-final.
Another encounter between these two team in the 2009 semi-final also had an away goal rules that provide the crucial factor. This time the first leg is in Spain and the game ended in 0-0. Barcelona can win the tie if they had won in Chelsea or the game ended up in goal scoring draw where Chelsea need to win in order progress to the final. Chelsea had taken the lead via Micheal Essien and had stopped Barcelona from scoring but in the injury time, Barcelona had scored an away goal via Andreas Iniesta on their first attempt on goal. Chelsea had been knocked out on away goal even though they do not lose both games.
In one of the bizarre situation where the away goal had used to eliminate a team happens in 2003 semi-final when AC Milan meet InterMilan. In this situation, both teams are playing in the same San Siro Stadium. The first leg had ended in 0-0 draw and the second leg had ended in 1-1 in favor of AC Milan. Although both teams sharing some stadium as their home ground, in the second leg game technically AC Milan is the away team hence the game had been decided on the away goal rule favoring AC Milan.
When an away team did not score an away goal in the first leg, their task can become harder if they had been defeated in the first leg as they need to score a goal and at some stopping other from scoring. If they had scored an away goal in the first leg, their task can be easier as happen in the game between Arsenal and Valencia in 2001 quarterfinal. The first leg in Highbury ended up in a 2-1 win for Arsenal but since Valencia had scored the away goal they only needed a 1-0 win in Spain to progress to the semi-final which is the outcome of the second leg and Arsenal had been knocked out via away goal.
If an away team had won their first leg, then in the second leg the losing team must win the game in the opponent home ground. This is a situation where only 2 teams had achieved this feat, first Ajax Amsterdam in 1996 semifinal when they had won 3-0 in Greece against Panathinaikos after losing their first leg in Amsterdam 1-0 and the next team is InterMilan in 2011 second round where they had won in Germany against Bayern Munich 3-2 after losing 1-0 in Italy. Another team that had nearly achieved this difficult feat is Arsenal in 2013 second round. After losing in England to Bayern with a 3-1 scoreline, Arsenal had miraculously won 2-0 in Germany but still did not enough as they did not score enough away from goal to progress to quarter final but Arsenal nearly did one of the greatest turnarounds in the UCL history.
Although they are called to abolished the away goal as travelling circumstance is far better now than in the past but the away goal rules can provide some fabulous games and some classic games as an example of these 4 games and provide some disadvantages as a team may not lose the tie in 2 legged but still can be knocked out via this rules. Before FIFA, UEFA or IFAB had found a better way for the tiebreaker for the home and away knockout stages, the away goal will be used for the tiebreaker.