A few of weeks ago I wrote about UEFA's decision to remove away goals in the knockout stages of European club competition. I was skeptical about this move and thought it could result in more penalty shootouts in the latter stages of competitions.
The Champions League to date has proved this to be wrong. No two-legged knockout tie was decided from the spot during the 2021/22 competition. In fact, the change in rules appears to be working very well and the strategic behavior that one witnessed in previous seasons appears to be reduced.
Take Real Madrid versus Man City as an example.
The Spanish team trailed 4-3 going into last night's game. In previous seasons, three away goals would have defined how this tie would be played. Under the new rules, the game is simplified, and Real knew they required a one goal margin to force extra time and penalties.
Had this been 2020/21 Man City would have exited the competition after 90 mins (5-5 on aggregate). The new system gave City extra time. Maybe in the past Real, fearful of conceding away goals, would have sought to play out the final 30 minutes in a draw. With this threat removed, attacking play by the home team is encouraged and the Spanish club won the game 3-1, and the tie 6-5, after extra time.
The removal of this fundamental European rule may be much better than I first thought.