To someone that has not been watching or betting on football for years, the term ‘aggregate’ can be something that throws them off. After all, why is the scoreline in the corner of the TV screen followed by another scoreline in brackets? In this guide, we will take a look at what aggregate means in football, when it is used and more.
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What Does Aggregate Mean?
The term aggregate in football refers to a combined score between two teams across a two-legged tie. The term aggregate is defined as a whole that is ultimately formed by combining different parts or elements. It is also seen as the total number of goals or points that are collected by a team or teams over a series of matches.
Why Is Aggregate Used in Football?
The use of aggregate scorelines is used in football to ensure that both teams have a fair chance of winning the match. In a Europa League quarter-final, if Sevilla play Rangers, it would be unfair on Rangers to have to travel to face their opponents in Spain in a one-off match.
By utilising an aggregate score, it means that both teams are given the chance to play both at home and away. While the time for travel may not be a factor into a domestic cup competition, it will become far more important in a Champions League match that pits two sides from opposite ends of Europe against one-another.
There are also a range of factors that come into play when at home, such as the fans, weather conditions and the playing surface among others. It would be unfair to only give one team this advantage in such an important game, which means it makes sense to force both sides to play at home and away.
What Competitions Use Aggregate Scorelines?
You will notice that you do not see an aggregate scoreline in most standard league football matches. In the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and other major leagues, normal league games will end after 90 minutes. This means the score on the day is the be-all and end-all. In cup competitions, most of the preliminary matches will be played in the standard format, seeing the scoreline of that particular clash resulting in the winner and loser being decided.
Sometimes, these cup competitions will end as a draw after 90 minutes. This will either see the game go to extra time and penalties, or it could see the game replayed, with the away side in the first game then hosting. This match will see the teams start from 0-0 once again, with the scoreline in the original game discounted. The games where an aggregate score is usually used is in the latter-stages of cup competitions.
In the Champions League, four teams are put into a group and play each-other home and away. Each game begins with both sides at 0-0. This means that if Tottenham travel to face Bayern Munich and lose 3-0 in Germany in the group stage, their home game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will start with a clean slate at 0-0.
However, once the teams have reached the knock-out stage, the contests become two-legged affairs. Now, if Spurs play Bayern in the quarter-finals and lose 3-0 in Germany, they will then play the return leg in London 0-0 on the night, but 3-0 down on aggregate. This is denoted by the score in the top corner reading:
On the left of the above example, the ‘Tot 0-0 Bay’ is the scoreline on the night. Tottenham and Bayern Munich are currently locked at 0-0 in that game. The ‘(0-3)’ means that the aggregate score is Tottenham 0 Bayern 3, with this the aggregate score brought over from the first game. If Spurs were to score, it would now read:
This means that Tottenham are 1-0 up on the night, while they are 3-1 down on aggregate. Where things tend to get a bit more confusing is a match in the English League Cup. One-off games are utilised until the semi-final stages. The last four teams are put into two separate matches and play each-other home and away.
These battles will see aggregate scorelines used, with the score from the first leg transferred into the second to find the eventual winner. Anything up to and including the quarter-final stages of the competition do not utilise aggerate scores and are only played over a single leg.
What Are Away Goals?
Away goals are where the slight confusion that aggregate scores bring are taken to another level. Introduced into the 1965/66 Cup Winners Cup, the rule was first used in a game between Dukla Prague and Budapest Honved, which ended 4-4. Ultimately, Budapest Honved progressed after scoring three goals away from home in comparison to Dukla’s two.
It was quickly adopted by the European Cup (now the Champions League) in 1967. It has since been used in a variety of competitions across the world. As mentioned, the away goals rule can be a bit confusing, so it is best explained in an example.
Champions League Example
Chelsea play PSG in the Champions League at the semi-final stage. Chelsea win the first leg 3-1 at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea scoring three goals and PSG scoring one away goal. The away goal technically counts for more than the home goal, meaning PSG scoring in London is made even more important.
In the second leg, PSG win the match 2-0, meaning the game ends 3-3 on aggregate (Chelsea 3 PSG 1 in the first leg and PSG 2 Chelsea 0 in the second leg). While the aggregate score is level at 3-3, the fact PSG scored an away goal means that they will win the tie on away goals as Chelsea did not score any goals on the road.
In another example, if Chelsea were to have lost the second leg 4-2, the scorelines would have been Chelsea 3 PSG 1 and PSG 4 Chelsea 2, resulting in a 5-5 draw on aggregate. The match would then be decided by the away goals rule. Chelsea’s two away goals now beat PSG’s one away goal, meaning that Chelsea advance on away goals.
The whole system was a bit confusing for fans and was seen by unfair as many, and this saw the UEFA Champions League stop using the system. Originally intended to try to coax the away side into attack more when on the road, the rule is now seen as outdated by many as football is very different from when the rule was introduced.
Now, it sees the home side trying to ensure they do not concede a vital away goal in the tie, seeing them sit back and defend more. Others have claimed that it means playing a home leg in the second game is a disadvantage due to how much more valuable away goals are than home goals.
However, when it is used in the right way, it can see a potentially helpless position turned into a faint glimmer of light. After all, going into a match 3-0 down from the first leg is a bad result, but going into it 3-1 down with an away goal means that it would only take two goals to win the tie if they keep the opposition out.
Simply put, if a game ends as a draw on aggregate, the team that has scored the most away goals will win. This system is still used in a number of competitions but, as of the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League season, UEFA have decided to get rid of the away goals rule in favour of goals being weighted the same no matter where they are scored.