Football

Twitter Thread From 2019 Brilliantly Sums Up Why Away Goals Have To Stay In The Champions League

Twitter Thread From 2019 Brilliantly Sums Up Why Away Goals Have To Stay In The Champions League

It appears as though UEFA have voted to get rid of the away goals rule in the Champions League and Europa League from next season. The news has been widely reported in the last few days by sources like the Times and the Athletic, but one Twitter thread from 2019 has resurfaced that brilliantly explains why away goals would be sorely missed in the Champions League knockout stages.

Omar Chaudhuri of Twenty First Group posted a long thread in February 2019 breaking down the numbers behind the away goals rule - and his chief takeaway was that it does indeed amplify the excitement of the knockout stages, both in the Champions League and Europa League.

Chaudhuri leads by pointing out that the away goals rule does not lead to overly cautious play, with similar rates of 0-0 draws in knockout first-legs as in group stage games.

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Omar then went on to break down the percentage of drawn ties that were decided by away goals and neatly surmised that the absence of the rule would lead to more games dragging on through extra-time and penalties.

Anyone who watched Wednesday's Europa League final between Man United and Villarreal will attest that, though the penalty shootout was enthralling, the 120 minutes of football leading up to it were dire to watch - and we'd have to contend with much more of that if away goals is done away with.

But Chaudhuri's arguments pivot back to the strongest pro-away goals argument: the rule makes knockout football more exciting. The rule means that games can pivot from side-to-side despite the two-legged nature of the knockout stages, an element that would be completely taken away if away goals were removed.

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There is no other circumstance in football whereby a team can convert a losing position directly to a winning position, and the loss of that element of intrigue would be the biggest casualty of the change to the away goals rule.

It's funny that Chaudhuri's thread came at the beginning of the 2018-19 Champions League knockout stages, a season with several all-time classic Champions League moments defined by away goals.

Without away goals, Marcus Rashford's late penalty in Paris for Man United would have taken the game to extra-time, rather than sealing a dramatic comeback win. Tottenham progressed from the group stage, quarter-finals, and semi-finals all on away goals, with all three of those sealed in the closing stages of decisive games from losing positions.

That 2019 quarter-final triumph for Spurs - against Man City - came in a classic game against Man City, which finished 4-3 and saw the balance of power shift four times side-to-side because of the away goals rule. The game would obviously still have been exciting, but there's also the argument that the presence of the away goals rule encourages teams to chase the game more and more.

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Chaudhuri's thread has gone viral after being shared by Jamie Carragher on Friday night, and his Twitter notifications have been unexpectedly packed in the past 24 hours, as the two-year-old thread has suddenly been recirculated.

Regardless of how fans feel, it looks like UEFA have decided to scrap away goals, but both the statistics and the historical examples from the Champions League would suggest that the competition will be worse off for their absence from next season.

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Eoin Harrington

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