A blog following in Dennis' footsteps. Ajax, Arsenal and Dutch football
The tension of the Champions League knockout stages. Two teams, usually from a different league, square off to determine who is the superior side. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra starts playing that beautiful anthem, millions at home or at the pub clutch their beers and prepare for a glorious encounter at the summit of European club football. After two hard-fought battles, the team that managed to ripple their adversary’s net more often than the other way around, wins. But is that what happens? Do clubs go on a relentless, all-out mission to outscore their opponents? They do not, for there is a rule that prevents them to do so.
The away goals rule seems incredibly flawed. The term ‘knockout stage’ implies that the teams play each other at their respective grounds until one team outscores the other.
Of course, one could argue that the rule encourages teams to be more attacking away from home, especially in the first leg. This, however, is not reality; home teams are usually very cautious and their foes try to snatch a goal on the counter-attack most of the time. This regularly results in very nervous and less exciting encounters.
Twice in this season’s edition of the Champions League we’ve seen teams getting knocked out due to failing to score more goals away from home. Last night’s encounter is still fresh in the memory. Barcelona bested Paris Saint-Germain by 3-3 on aggregate, coincidentally the same score line that saw fellow Fly Emirates-sponsored Arsenal’s cup-winning dreams shattered at the hands of German Rekordmeister Bayern München. Slightly irrelevant, but you could argue that extra time would’ve resulted in a different winner on both occasions if it wasn’t for the away goals rule. It’s time to look at, possibly outdated and unrealistic, alternatives.
Another possibility could be a new match at a neutral ground. Quite unrealistic, but fair nonetheless.
No obvious advantage, purely looking at this one game, for either team. A level playing field.
However, it’s near impossible to fit in another exhausting Champions League encounter. It would need adjustment to not only the Champions League schedule, but also the schedules of the clubs’ respective leagues. Not to mention the fact that fans thought they had paid for a decisive encounter previously, only to see the match go to a replay.
Golden or Silver Goal
This is obviously a long shot, for the Golden and Silver Goal rules only existed between 1993 and 2004. The Golden Goal rule states that, if a match goes to extra time, the first team to score a goal is immediately declared the winner. Most people find this unfair, and it’s easy to understand why; the conceding team can’t redeem itself. The Silver Goal, however, could be a good option if you adjust it a bit. The original Silver Goal rule is that, if a team scores in extra time, the opposing team has until the end of that 15-minute half to manage a draw (and go to penalties), or a win even.
It might be worth considering introducing the Bronze Goal rule© as an adjustment to the Silver Goal Rule. This rule, made up by your writer, states that, at the start of extra time, a team is allowed to make 3 additional substitutes. If a team scores in extra time, the opposing team has 15 minutes to equalise or even grab a winner. If the score line is balanced after the regular 30 minutes or after the 15 minutes since the first goal in extra time was scored, the match goes to penalties.
This may sound a bit naïve, but it would be very entertaining.
In conclusion: It’s hard to come up with a completely fair alternative to the already unfair away goals rule. What started out as an attempt to find a proper way to end a football match, ended up being a mere summary of more or less unrealistic options. The point, however, stands: The existing rule ends a thrilling contest in a thoroughly unsatisfactory fashion. Whether or not your team is on the receiving end of it, we all want to see a real winner in the gladiators’ arena of Champions.
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