St. Patrick’s Day Champions League Review: Sportsman Values and Tiebreakers on Display

Yesterday’s Champions League action had me glued to the TV for almost 3 hours. After Arsenal saw elimination at the hands of Monaco on away goals, I switched quickly to watch the cagey Atletico Madrid taking on the sturdy Bayer Leverkusen in overtime. It’s the overtime that made me realize the leading theme of the footballing day: tiebreaking decisions.

Arsenal exited on away goals, while Bayer Leverkusen surrendered to Atletico in shootout. Watching the heartbreaking shootout is what made me realize that, though shootout isn’t the fairest tiebreak in the world, it still is a great deal better than away goals.

Though Monaco played Arsenal off the pitch in London, it’s fair to say Arsenal did the same to the Ligue 1 side in their dome. Arsenal, in my opinion, is one of the victims of the away goal system.

Let’s rewind to last week, with Chelsea vs PSG. It’s fair to say that PSG were the better side over two legs, but that isn’t what away goals is reflecting. At the end of the day, football is about putting the ball in the back of the net more times than the opponent, and all away goals state is that PSG and Monaco scored more goals in London than Chelsea and Arsenal did in Paris and Monaco, respectively. It also means that playing the 2nd leg at home is also a disadvantage, because the opposing team can try to find away goal advantages, or find goals in overtime that change away goals (see Chelsea and PSG again).

That being said, shootout is surely a better way to settle things than away goals, and it also relates to my 2nd point of review: values. As Stefan Kiessling blasted the deciding penalty over the bar, Atletico substitute goalkeeper Jan Oblak went straight to console the devastated Leverkusen striker. It was a great showing of sportsmanship.

Monaco, in my opinion, played a classy 2nd leg to match their tactical masterclass from their amazing first leg. After showing discipline and flair in the first leg of the clash with Arsenal, they didn’t just park the bus in Monaco and put 10 men in the box. In fact, Monaco didn’t even stall in the corner or in any way against Arsenal. At the end, with 30 seconds to play, Monaco had a free kick, and they played it straight to an offside man, giving Arsenal possession of the ball to make the last play. Though it may not have been on purpose, it was a sign that Monaco wasn’t wasting any time, and they were only going to win fair and square.

Arsenal may have been as good as Monaco on the score sheet over 2 legs, but Monaco showed exceptional values that almost made up for the shameful away goal system. And while Atletico and Bayer Leverkusen was a cagey lock over the 2 legs, Jan Oblak made Atletico seem like the bigger team after an exciting shootout.

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