End the away goals rule!

April 27, 2010

If you achieve enough success in life to be in the position to make rule changes in a sport, there’s a pretty good chance you have a sizable economic chunk in the outcome.

As a fan, I dislike the away goals rule.  This Champions League semi-final is a case in point: at the 30 minute mark, I quit watching.  I imagine alot of people did.  Bayern won the first game 1-0 at home, and then they scored in the 25th minute today to lead 1-0 away at Lyon.   So what had been a game in which Lyon had only to score a goal to tie now means that Lyon is 2.9 goals behind?  Why?  In order to win, they have to score 3 goals.  They cannot tie because they will lose on the away goals rule, hence the decimal 2.9 goals.

2 goal deficit?  I’ll keep watching.  3 goals?  Sorry, I really value my time.  I love watching football, but I’m not going to watch the game anymore, there are more productive things I can do than watch a game whose outcome is already decided 99.5% of the time.

And if alot of people did, that means ads probably go for less in these type of games, because advertisers factor in the possibility that people stop watching the game.  Actually, this is probably automatically factored in because advertisers buy ads based on an average of previous ratings.   When people stop watching because of the away goals rule, the avg ratings will be down.  So, in my opinion, the rule should be changed because fans would be more interested and thus football on the whole would make more money.

That’s the economic angle, but I think the other angles similarly argue for ending the away goals rule.  From a sporting angle, do teams really need the away goals rule in order to attack when away?  I doubt it.

Is it fair?  I argue that it’s not.  I’m not sure what the statistical advantage is to playing away on the second leg, but I imagine that it is significant, statistically.  It just seems dumb and more likely to increase the randomness factor inherent in sports (although perhaps having the occasional worse team go through is good for ratings?  Maybe, but I doubt it, and I think studies in the US have shown that dynasties are good for ratings)

My proposal: end the away goals rule.  Play the entire 180 minutes in aggregate.  If there is a tie at the end, reduce the teams to playing 7 on 7 with a golden goal (sudden death, for us Yanks) rule.  Let the 4 field players taken off be available as substitutes in the overtime period, and allow substitutions liberally.


*it’s better than penalty kicks, which isn’t football.

*it’s better than the away goals rule, which is random and sometimes leads to drab second matches as teams try to do anything at home in the second leg to prevent the away team from scoring.

*All goals count the same, rather than some goals counting for alot and other goals not mattering at all.  A goal is always worth a goal, rather than sometimes being worth 1.9 goals like it is right now.

*it will be super exciting! I truly believe this.  Plus minor rule changes are usually interesting

*The best team will win more often.


*It’s a different form of soccer (better than away goals and penalty kicks, in my opinion).

*It punishes the winner by tiring out its best players (maybe, though I think allowing liberal substitutions would help alot).

*It is a drastic departure from football tradition (dude, so are penalty kicks, and we’ve decided who wins the World Cup that way!  you can’t make it any worse than deciding the World Cup winner by PKs!  at least this is actual football).


Bayern Munich v Lyon thoughts

April 21, 2010

For a game that was 0-0 for 70 minutes, I thought those were a very entertaining 70 minutes.  Honestly after Arjen Robben’s goal the excitement level declined into a World War I trenches combat.

Rooting loyalties: no Americans playing, no attachment to either team.  An Argentine on each side (Lisandro Lopez for Lyon and DiMichelis for Bayern) and a couple Dutch for Bayern (Arjen Robben and manager Louis Van Gaal).  All in all I was pretty neutral but rooting for Lisandro Lopez to score.

1.  The game was the same 11 on 11, 11 on 10 (Lyon advantage), and 10 v 10.  Bayern dominated, attacking at will and creating numerous chances.   Sounds like they must be a Dutch-coached team.  In the first third of the game particularly, they were attacking down the wings with their primary weapons, Robben and Ribery.

2.  The referee redcarded Franck Ribery for a challenge on Lisandro Lopez.  The Argentine announcers were saying, “well, he’ll get a yellow card for this” and were pretty surprised when he got a red.  They came around a little bit more watching it in slow motion, but…imo, this was not a red card.  Watching it in slow motion, although it looked bad, made me even less sure that it was a red card because Ribery tried to avoid putting his foot down.  It was a dangerous challenge, but it wasn’t a stomp on the ankle.  As I watched it in slow motion while the Argentine announcers were convincing themselves that maybe sorta possibly it could be a red, I wrote down on my notepad, “Lisandro will be back in the game within 3 minutes.”  I was right.  The Bayern fans had pretty impressive whistling for 5-10 minutes aftewards.

3.  Ouch for Ribery, going out after 35 minutes in a time when he is in a furor over visiting a prostitute who was apparently 16 and then 17…and not just visiting her but also flying her out to Germany.  He apparently faces the possibility of 3 years in jail.

4.  Gotta be frustrating for Lopez who wants a chance to show his class for Maradona.  He didn’t get alot of service and besides drawing the red card, had a relatively eventless game.  It’s amazing how a guy can score almost 30 goals in almost 30 games last year and still not get alot of mention in his home country.  That’s how much attacking talent Argentina has these days.

5.  Van Gaal has Bayern playing well, but no way Klose misses one of the aerial chances that Muller missed.    Bayern was pretty profligate.

6.  Bayern’s well deserved mark on the scoresheet was a Robben strike where he dribbled in from the right, created a little space and fired.  Two players, one from Lyon and one from Bayern ducked and had the ball fly over them.  The goalie started moving the opposite way and thus didn’t make it to the ball, which was hardly in the corner of the net.  My wife could not believe the players ducking.  I have no idea what was going through his mind.

Thoughts on Barcelona v Inter

April 21, 2010

1.  The bus ride from Barcelona to Milan made a difference.  Barca didn’t seem to have any energy the whole game.  It was sorta weird to watch, but they won very few loose balls and their off the ball movement was languid.

2.  Mourinho is a tactical master, so they say, and it certainly looked that way.  They pressured the ball extremely effectively up front and had Barcelona playing some uncharacteristic longballs from the back that never hit their target.  At the end I saw that Barca had 68% possession, but never was there a less impressive 68%.

3.  Diego Milito made a pretty strong case for getting playing time with La Seleccion de Argentina.  If Maradona doesn’t like what he saw as manager of the national team, he must be crazy.  Milito made more of an impact than Messi, by far.

4.  It’s very weird to say that the ref had a huge, huge impact on the match when there were no absolutely egregious calls.  And yet he did.  Milito was a touch offside on the 3rd goal, Inter’s 2nd goal started with a foul on Messi, Dani Alves deserved a penalty kick, not a yellow card.   The ref was awfully quick to book Barcelona players and awfully slow to book Inter players.

5.  Balotelli will go for less on the transfer market than he should.  I would be in line to buy him.  It’s hard to believe that Inter really attacked one of their own players after a massive victory.  Bizarre.

6.  With all that said, Inter deserved the victory.  They created more chances.  At one point when it was 1-0 Barca (and the Barca goal was entirely against the run of play) I said to myself, “to be honest, this game could be 3-0 Inter right now.”

No doubt Barcelona has a big hole to climb back from.  They have to win by 2 goals against an Italian team.  It remains to be seen how many men they keep in the box.  Mourinho isn’t Italian, so at least that weighs towards an interesting game.

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