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Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Away Goal Rule

The away goal rule in the European continental competitions such as the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup make the way managers and teams approach the second game differently. The rule, which doubles up the value of an away goal when the aggregate goal is equal among the two teams over two ties, means that the team who scores an away goal should be pretty much in the driving seat of the ties. However, this is not always the case because the away goal in the first tie means nothing if the home team in the second leg could not score a single goal. So, what score is most desired by managers and how do they approach the second tie based on the result from the first tie?

First Leg Results
0-0: This score is good enough for the home team as long as they can score an away goal in the 2nd leg, then any draw (1-1, 2-2) or any win bigger than 1-0 away will do. In this case, both teams in the 2nd leg should play a counterattacking gameplan and be very cautious. Whoever got the first goal in the 2nd leg will dictate the game.

1-1, 2-2, 3-3: These scores are pretty bad for the 1st leg home team because the 2nd leg home team can afford to play a very defensive gameplan to grind out a 0-0 score or a counterattacking game because the 2nd leg away team has to attack to get a win with any score or a draw with more away goals.

1-0, 2-0 (Home team win): This is very good because in the 2nd leg they can afford to lose with a single goal margin (1-2, 2-3, and so on) and any draw is obviously enough, as long as they do not lose out with more goal margin than the 1st leg win. In the 2nd leg the away team should be playing defensive or counterattacking game while the home team should be playing an attacking game to score 2 or more clear goals.

2-1 (Home team win): This is a bit tricky for the 1st leg home team, but it is not necessary an advantage for the 2nd leg home team because in the second leg, any draw will be enough for the 2nd leg away team. So the 2nd leg away team should be playing a defensive gameplan or counterattacking to nick 1 away goal, while the 2nd leg home game should be playing counterattacking gameplan and prevent the away team to score a goal in the 2nd leg.

3-2 (Home team win): This is a disadvantage for the 1st leg home team because when they are playing away in the 2nd leg, they have to be very-very defensive. The fact that the 1st leg away team can score 2 goals means they have very dangerous forwarders and they are capable of scoring goal. Any away win or a draw in the 2nd leg will be enough for the winner of the 1st tie to progress however the main idea actually is to prevent the dangerous attackers of the 2nd leg home team to score goal. Once the home team got the first goal in the 2nd leg, it means the away team has to score 2 clear goals to progress. A 1-0 or 2-1 win in the 2nd leg for the home team is still enough for them to progress.

Any loss at home in the first tie is a big trouble for the 1st leg home team that needs to travel in the 2nd leg. Barcelona FC has been a victim of this situation when they lost 1-2 to Liverpool FC in the Last 16 of the 2006/2007 UEFA Champions League.

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