Erased in 2014, away goal rule makes an Indian Super League comeback

It took the Indian Super League (ISL) four editions to introduce what was initially incorporated in the rules but scrapped by the time the ball rolled in 2014.

The ISL 2017/18 semi-finals will have the away goal rule, according to a media release late on Tuesday. “The ‘away goal’ rule will come into effect at the end of normal playing time during the second leg. If the aggregate goal difference between the two teams is zero (0), then the team that scored more away goals would be declared the winner of the tie,” the media release said.

But the away goal or goals scored in extra-time will not decide the winners if the match stays a draw. Penalties will.

“If both teams score no goals/equal number of goals in extra time, the winner would be decided on penalties,” according to the media release.

That means if the both legs end 1-1, the semi-final will go into extra-time. But if after 30 minutes of open play, the score is 3-3, the team which has scored two away goals wouldn’t win and the match would be decided by a penalty shootout.

This is how it is in the Asian Champions League. Europe’s Champions League though follows a different rule with the away goal rule staying till the end of extra-time. That means the 3-3 result mentioned above wouldn’t have needed penalties.

This rule was introduced before from the start of this edition, according to a club official who requested anonymity because he is not authorised to talk to the media.

The away goal rule was in the regulations first sent to the eight participating teams in August 2014 but omitted in September. A circular before the semi-finals in 2014 too stated the away goal rule would not be applicable.

“A two-leg semi-final is about trying to find out the best team, having played home and away with an equal importance to reward applied to each of the two matches. It was strongly felt that the fairest for the team that qualifies for the final was to have done so by scoring more goals, either in the regular time, extra-time or penalty shootouts rather than their ability to score more goals away from home, a spokesperson had said when this newspaper inquired in December 2014 why the away goal rule had been scrapped.

“We all learn with time and this was introduced in 2017-18 after three seasons to be in step with Asia’s apex competition,” said an ISL spokesperson over the phone from Mumbai on Tuesday.

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