Inter Milan host AC Milan in the first of the semi-final second legs, before Real Madrid and Manchester City’s last-four tie comes to a conclusion. What if the teams can’t be separated?
The semi-finals of the Champions League reach their conclusion this week, starting with the second leg of a European Derby della Madonnina. Inter host city rivals AC Milan on Tuesday, with the Nerazzurri 2-0 up from last week’s opener and in pole position to reach June’s final in Istanbul. Indeed, Milan’s hopes of progressing depend on the Rossoneri becoming only the second away team ever to recover from a 2-0 deficit in the second leg of a Champions League knockout tie.
On Wednesday, Real Madrid then visit Manchester City in a clash that remains on a knife edge, after a 1-1 first-leg draw at the Bernabéu. Of the two last-four ties, this one is certainly the hardest to call – and, as things stand, seems far likelier to still be level after normal time in the second leg.
This begs the question: what happens next if a Champions League knockout tie is all square after 180 minutes?
Do Champions League away goals carry extra weight?
The way in which two-legged ties in European competitions could potentially be decided has changed slightly in recent years. For as long as pretty much all of us can all remember, the implementation of the ‘away goals rule’ meant that teams were ‘rewarded’ for finding the net away from home. Specifically, if a tie finished level after the two legs, the team that had scored the most goals away from home would progress to the next stage.
UEFA, however, opted to stop using the away goals rule in June 2021 in all European competitions.
Why did UEFA abolish the away goals rule?
The ‘away goals rule’ was originally introduced in the (now defunct) UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965-66 because it was deemed that playing away from home put teams at a huge disadvantage, with players forced to make long trips to games and few away fans in attendance. The rule was theoretically a reward for teams daring to be adventurous in away matches, when the odds were stacked against them.
However, upon making the decision to abolish the rule, UEFA published some statistics which helped explain the historic change. “Statistics since the mid-1970s 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”.
There was also a view that as much as encouraging away teams to attack, it prompted home teams to set up defensively in an attempt to keep a clean sheet at all costs. Not exactly a recipe for entertaining soccer.
What happens when a game is tied?
If the Champions League ties are all square at the end of the second leg, the game will go to extra-time, a 30-minute period of play composed of two halves of 15 minutes.
If the score is still tied at the end of the 30 minutes, the game will be decided from the penalty spot – a shootout involving five players from each side which will then go to sudden death if the score remains level after both teams have taken all of their five spot-kicks.
Teams who play the second leg at home could be deemed to have a slight advantage as they have the prospect of playing an extra 30 minutes – and taking penalties – in their home ground in front of their own fans.