UEFA’s announcement that the away goals rule would be scrapped ahead of the 2021/22 European competitions will bring much joy to some supporters and key figures in football who have opposed it in the past, such as Arsene Wenger.
There was always a case that the rule favoured sides who played their home tie first and next season will see the rule scrapped for the first time since its introduction in 1965. For all the criticisms the rule has picked up over the years, it has provided football fans with some sensational first-rate moments that they will never see again. Drama, last-gasp goals and chaos at Stamford Bridge, here is a recap on some of the greatest games decided by away goals in UEFA competitions in recent years.
Ajax v Tottenham, Champions League semi-final, 2018/19
First leg: Tottenham 0-1 Ajax
Second leg: Ajax 2-3 Tottenham
This game has been written into footballing folklore. Future generations learning what the away goals rule used to bring will be shown this exact game and they will see the sheer madness and pandemonium this simple rule would cause. After going two goals down in Amsterdam within the first-half, strikes courtesy of Matthijs De Ligt and Hakim Ziyech, Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who did remarkably well just to reach the semi-final, looked dead and buried.
In desperate need of fresh blood to instigate some belief into his side, Pochettino sent Brazilian winger Lucas Moura on for the second in period in what proved to be one of the greatest substitutions of all time. Two quickfire goals from the ex-PSG man gave Spurs a chance as they patiently waited to deal a final blow. As the clock was running down, Moura latched on to a Dele Alli knockdown and fired a low effort past Andre Onana to send the Spurs bench, Spurs supporters, the BT Sport studio and most likely Europe into a total state of delirium!
Chelsea v Barcelona, Champions League semi-final, 2008/09
First leg: Barcelona 0-0 Chelsea
Second leg: Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona
A sour memory for Chelsea fans in what were the early days of Barcelona’s stewardship under Pep Guardiola. The west London side had earned a goalless draw which they had tremendously fought for at Camp Nou with a strong defensive display against an incredible attacking trio made up of Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi.
In the home tie at Stamford Bridge, the Blues looked on course to book their place in the final when Michael Essien scored one of the Champions League’s greatest goals with a rocketed volley into the net off the underside of the crossbar. However, Essien turned from hero to villain as his failed clearance late on found its way to the feet of Messi and he teed up Andrés Iniesta who found the top corner as the away end erupted. Also the game famed for Didier Drogba’s famous rant at the officials as he called them a ‘disgrace’, this was packed full of drama.
Manchester City v Tottenham, Champions League quarter-final, 2018/19
First leg: Tottenham 1-0 Manchester City
Second leg: Manchester City 4-3 Tottenham
Another season where the Champions League evaded Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City but a day of ecstasy for Pochettino and Tottenham fans. After a 1-0 affair at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the second leg provided incredible Champions League entertainment. Raheem Sterling and Heung-min Son both scored early on with Son securing a brace on the 10-minute mark, before Bernardo Silva pulled the score level almost instantly. Sterling then grabbed his second to swing the tie back into City’s favour.
This quarter-final second leg had provided so much in the first-half, which really brought the tie to life. Sergio Aguero added his name to the scoresheet in the second-half before Fernando Llorente’s late goal, which appeared to strike his arm, was given to put Spurs ahead on away goals. Sterling thought he had sent City into the semi-final late on but it was ruled offside for Agüero’s position in the build-up by VAR. Breath-taking.
Roma v Barcelona, Champions League quarter-final, 2017/18
First leg: Barcelona 4-1 Roma
Second leg: Roma 3-0 Barcelona
Barcelona's recent Champions League record doesn't make for pretty reading and it all began as Roma fired themselves to the semi-finals after an incredible comeback. The Catalan club ran Roma ragged in the first-leg as they dumped them at Camp Nou but Edin Dzeko’s consolation away goal proved crucial.
The former Manchester City man opened the scoring at the Stadio Olimpico in the second leg to give Roma a lifeline and Daniele De Rossi’s penalty made a dream become closer to a realistic possibility. It was not until the ball bulged the back of the net when Kostas Manolas’ headed home to put Roma on the brink of the Champions League semi-finals. That Dzeko goal in the first leg made that sensational night in Rome a reality!
Inter Milan v AC Milan, Champions League semi-final, 2002/03
First leg: AC Milan 0-0 Inter Milan
Second leg: Inter Milan 1-1 AC Milan
Quite the remarkable Champions League semi-final with both ties taking place at the San Siro, and after a dull first leg it was the second leg that provided the dramatic away goal. It was the Ukranian striker Andriy Shevchenko who scored the decisive goal just before half-time. Inter pushed to turn the tie around but they could only muster an equaliser late on through Obafemi Martins but it was not enough and AC Milan’s solitary ‘away’ goal carried them through to the Champions League final.
There is no doubt that the away goal rule has split opinion but there is no doubt in the amount of drama and entertainment it has provided over the years. It may be good for the beautiful game that it is scrapped but it will be sorely missed.