The away goals rule that has applied to three of Hibs’ continental competitions and never once favoured the Easter Road side has been abolished ahead of the new season.
Football’s governing body in Europe has decided upon the rule just two weeks before the first qualifying matches for the Champions League were due to kick off.
Instead of away goals counting for extra in the event of a two-legged tie on aggregate, second legs will have an additional extra-time added if the scores are level after 180 minutes of football. If required, a penalty shoot-out will follow.
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It’s a significant change to European competition rules, which has always seen a goal away from home valued, particularly in first leg matches.
The rule has never fallen in Hibs’ favour though.
Odense prospered in the 2006 Intertoto Cup third round after a 2-2 draw over two legs, sending Tony Mowbray’s side out, as the same rule did to Alex Miller’s team in 1992 when Anderlecht sent Hibs crashing from the UEFA Cup. A 2-2 draw in Edinburgh, where Mickey Weir was sent off and goals came from Dave Beaumont and Pat McGinlay was followed by a 1-1 in Brussells with Darren Jackson on the scoresheet – but not enough to send them through.
The first time the rule applied to the Hibees was the 1968-69 Fairs Cup when Hamburg progressed after Hibs’ 2-1 win at Easter Road was followed by a 1-0 loss in Germany for a 2-2 aggregate score.
The rule comes into effect immediately and as well as applying to Hibs and Aberdeen as Scotland’s entrants to the UEFA Conference, it will also affect Celtic and Rangers in the Champions League qualifiers, and Scottish Cup winners’ St Johnstone in the Europa League.
UEFA explained some statistics behind the decision: “Statistics since the mid-1970s show a clear trend of continuous reduction in the gap between the number of home-away wins (from 61%-19% to 47%-30%) and the average number of goals per match scored at home-away (from 2.02-0.95 to 1.58-1.15) in men’s competitions.”