When Will My Brain Accept That The Away Goals Rule Doesn’t Exist Anymore?

Cody Gakpo scored a precious away goal for PSV today. WAIT, NO.

What a meeting we had in the Champions League playoffs on Wednesday. Portuguese giant Benfica, a two-time winner of the contest, against the Dutch behemoth PSV, winner in 1988. 

How would PSV navigate a trip to the formidable Estádio da Luz in Lisbon? Would Mario Götze orchestrate a vital away goal? Or would Nicolás Otamendi inspire the all-important clean sheet?! My brain whirled and reeled with all sorts of prognostications.

Then I remembered that the away goals rule has been abolished in all UEFA competitions. I felt like a prize asshole.   

Benfica opened the scoring in the 10th minute when new signing Roman Yaremchuk provided an audacious nutmeg assist for Rafa Silva to finish. Side note: How did Benfica get a 25-year-old seasoned Ukraine international who’s already scored against Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands and who hit 20 league goals last year for just $19 million?

Anyway, what a start for Benfica. 

Three minutes before halftime, Julian Weigl made it 2-0 after a Benfica corner eventually fell to him.  

"It’s time for Benfica to set up shop and avoid the away goal!" my brain screamed. No, brain. Shut the fuck up. You should know the deal by now.

Although Benfica really should’ve defended better, because PSV’s Cody Gakpo pulled back a precious away goal in the 51st minute.  

But as the clock edged toward full-time, it became fascinating how many permutations I could eliminate: So if PSV scores one more, then Benfica needs one in Eindhoven? No. It’s just 2-2 then. They could win on penalties. But if PSV scores the first goal back in Eindhoven, then Benfica surely needs to respond with one of its own? Nope. Just 2-2. It’d go to penalties after extra time.

“Hmm,” my brain says. “Precious. Vital. Away goals. Must. Explain. To non-soccer friend at the bar.”

Nope, it’s just 2-1. Benfica wins 2-1. 

The second leg is Tuesday, Aug. 24 at Philips Stadion.

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