A Comprehensive Explanation of the Away Goals Rule

The Away Goals Rule - It's not this hard.  (Justin Lewis / Getty Images)

The Away Goals Rule - It's not this hard. (Justin Lewis / Getty Images)

With a fresh round of tasty Champions League second legs beginning tomorrow, I figured it best to jump the gun on the inevitable ‘Away Goals’ drama – specifically the way that stupid people misinterpret it and then make it out to be some second-cousin of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. It ain’t that. In fact, the Away Goals Rule is insanely simple.

First of all, it is a tiebreaker. IT ONLY COUNTS WHEN SCORES ARE TIED AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE SECOND LEG! Away goals do not count for double, and are only applied to aggregate scores, and even then only when necessary.

Should a two legged knockout tie (with the Away Goals Rule applied) end as a draw on aggregate, then and only then do away goals matter. Upon that eventuality, whichever team scored the most away goals is awarded the victory. Hence the name. Should the two teams have scored an equal amount of away goals, then the match continues into extra time, and then penalties if required. Which means the only way a two legged Champions tie is heading to extra time is if the same score is repeated but reversed in each leg (i.e. a 2-1 win at home and a 1-2 loss away – 3-3 on aggregate, 1 away goal each).

Away Goals are the first and only tiebreaker applied in the Champions League before extra time/penalties. The only difficult part to understand is that the away goals rule is still in effect at the conclusion of extra time, giving one team an extra 30 minutes to score an away goal (although the other team gets another 30 minutes of home field advantage). But if no goals are scored in extra time, it’s up to penalties to decide it all.

Practical Example:

Chelsea came out of their first leg against Galatasaray with a 1-1 draw in Turkey the other week. This means, that SHOULD THE AGGREGATE SCORE BE TIED AFTER THE SECOND LEG (which given the first leg result would have to mean a draw), then Galatasaray will need to have scored twice (so, a 2-2 draw) or more to progress, or once (1-1) to take it into extra time. If either team wins, then they will progress with the victory on aggregate. AGGREGATE SCORE DETERMINES THE RESULT WHENEVER POSSIBLE BEFORE ANY AWAY GOALS ARE CONSIDERED.

In Summation:

The Away Goals Rule is only applied at the end of two complete legs (and also at the conclusion of any extra time), and only in the event of a tie of the aggregate score. Upon where the team with the most away goals over two legs advances as a tiebreaker. Away goals do not under any circumstances count for double, and just as you don’t go to penalties if a team has already won, the Away Goals Rule is irrelevant so long as a team has been victorious on aggregate.

It’s really not that hard.