Do away goals count in the Europa League?

The 2023/24 Europa League knockout rounds are well underway, with teams fighting to be crowned champions of the continent’s second most prestigious cup competition.

While some teams are flying effortlessly through this season’s tournament, other sides have found life a lot more challenging as they vie for European glory.

With fixtures that could swing either way throughout the knockout phase, it’s important for clubs and their supporters to know how Europa League ties are settled in the event of an aggregate draw come the final whistle.

Having been a regular feature of European competition in past years, is the away goal rule still in use in the Europa League?

The away goal rule was previously a pivotal part of knockout football in Europe, with the side who had netted more over two legs progressing if the tie ended in a draw on aggregate. However, away goals no longer count in any European competition, and that includes the 2023/24 Europa League.

UEFA chose to get rid of the away goal rule at the start of the 2021/22 season, a decision that has been met with significant backlash from plenty of supporters.

Houssem AouarHoussem Aouar

Europa League ties can be settled by penalties / Silvia Lore/GettyImages

If the aggregate score between two sides is now level after both legs have been played, the game will go to extra-time – regardless of which team has scored more away goals. That gives both sides an additional 30 minutes to try and swing the tie, although that’s not always possible.

If neither team is able to capitalise in extra time, the match will eventually go to a standard penalty shootout.

Out of the eight ties in the Europa League knockout round play-offs this year, three matches ended up going to extra-time. However, if the away goal rule still stood, only one of those games wouldn’t have been settled on away goals – the tie between Roma and Feyenoord that was decided on penalties.

Olympiacos vs Arsenal – 2020

Pierre-Emerick AubameyangPierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Aubameyang missed a golden opportunity for Arsenal / Harriet Lander/Copa/GettyImages

Having secured a 1-0 first-leg victory, Arsenal were odds-on favourites to progress to the last 16 when they hosted Greek outfit Olympiacos in February 2020.

The Gunners had enjoyed an unbeaten start to the year but were poor for large swathes of the return leg, which went to extra time after Pape Abou Cisse’s opener.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s awesome 113th-minute scissor kick put the north Londoners back in the driving seat, but awful set-piece defending allowed Youssef El Arabi to poke in from a free kick, levelling the aggregate score at 2-2 and putting the visitors ahead on away goals.

There was still time for Aubameyang to somehow lash wide from roughly five yards out, prompting groans of disbelief and disappointment from the home faithful as Arsenal’s elimination was sealed.

Liverpool vs Zenit Saint Petersburg – 2013

Steven GerrardSteven Gerrard

Gerrard’s Liverpool were knocked out by Zenit / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

A 2-0 defeat in Russia meant it was do or die for Liverpool in the Europa League in 2013. Despite their best efforts at Anfield, the Reds didn’t survive.

Goals from Hulk and Sergei Semak had given Zenit Saint Petersburg a two-goal lead in their last-32 tie and the hopes of Brendan Rodgers’ side looked all but extinguished when Hulk struck again 19 minutes into the return leg, capitalising on a Jamie Carragher error.

However, two Luis Suarez free-kicks either side of Joe Allen’s close-range finish had the Reds level on aggregate but still needing another to go through.

It never arrived as Liverpool exited the Europa League on away goals, having been knocked out of the FA Cup by League One side Oldham and eliminated from the League Cup by Rodgers’ former club Swansea.