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UEFA considering extra-time rule change for Champions League fixtures

UEFA are considering a change to the away goals rule that left Cristiano Ronaldo red-faced as Juventus crashed out of the Champions League.

There have been calls in recent seasons to scrap the rule that doubles the weight of away goals in the event of a draw over two legs in European competition.

It spelled the end of Juve’s Champions League bid this season, when Sergio Oliveira’s 115th-minute free-kick went through Ronaldo’s legs after Porto had held the Italian champions over two lots of 90 minutes.

Two minutes later Adrien Rabiot headed home a winner on the night – but it wasn’t enough as the Serie A giants were eliminated on away goals at the last-16 stage for the second successive season.

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UEFA are now discussing a tweak that would mean the away goals rule doesn’t count for ties that go to extra-time.

Juventus crashed out of the Champions League after Sergio Oliveira's free-kick went through Cristiano Ronaldo's legs
Juventus crashed out of the Champions League after Sergio Oliveira’s free-kick went through Cristiano Ronaldo’s legs

A final decision on any change would be taken by Uefa’s executive committee – which includes Andrea Agnelli, chairman of Juventus and of the powerful European Club Association.

The away goals rule has been in place for 56 years, but there have been increasing concerns over its continuing relevance – especially as several Champions League and Europa League ties have been played at neutral venues this season due to the pandemic.

But there have been calls for it to be scrapped prior to this season, with data having shown that more Champions League games have been won by visiting teams in recent years, while fewer clean sheets are being kept by home sides.

Arsene Wenger claimed while in charge of Arsenal that he believed the rule counter-productive in terms of encouraging attacking football.

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Manchester City were heading out to Jude Bellingham's stunning away goal at one point
Manchester City were heading out to Jude Bellingham’s stunning away goal at one point

“I believe the tactical weight of the away goal has become too important,” he told a conference in 2008

“Teams get a 0-0 draw at home and they’re happy. Instead of having a positive effect, it has been pushed too far tactically in the modern game. It has the opposite effect than it was supposed to have. It favours defending well when you play at home.”

In the UK, the away goals rule was scrapped in the League Cup three years ago.

The same year, other top managers including Jose Mourinho, Unai Emery and Massimiliano Allegri joined Wenger in calling on Uefa to reassess whether the rule was still relevant.

Arsene Wenger previously questioned the away goals rule
Arsene Wenger previously questioned the away goals rule

UEFA’s deputy general secretary Giorgio Marchetti said: “The coaches think that scoring goals away is not as difficult as it was in the past. They think the rule should be reviewed and that’s what we will do.”

Advances in technology, travel, pitch quality and scouting mean European trips are nowhere as intimidating as they were when the away goals rule was introduced.

However, long treks to the far side of the continent – particularly in the Europa League with games being played on Thursdays – can still prove disruptive to teams’ training scheduled and domestic fixture lists.

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Manchester City were heading out of the Champions League after Jude Bellingham’s early goal on Wednesday made the score 2-2 on aggregate, with Borussia Dortmund having the away-goal advantage.

But City hit back with goals from Riyadh Mahrez and Phil Foden to win the tie 4-2 over two legs.

Liverpool had the small comfort of an away goal as they hosted Real Madrid looking to overturn a 3-1 deficit – but a 0-0 draw at Anfield meant the 2019 champions exited the competition.

Arsenal travel to face Slavia Prague in the Europa League tonight with their hosts having nabbed an away goal in last week’s 1-1 draw at The Emirates.

Meanwhile, Manchester United are in a healthy position ahead of their home tie against Granada having won the away leg 2-0.

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