THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Distinction should be made in cup ties

icon goal12 October ~ When is a draw not a draw? When it's an Arsenal away win appears to be one answer. In the League Cup tie last Wednesday Arsenal drew the match against West Bromwich Albion, 1-1. Thus Arsenal's sequence of away wins came to an end. The tie was then settled on a penalty shootout with Arsenal victorious. And thus somehow, in the eyes of the media, Arsenal's sequence of away wins is preserved and extended further at Swansea on Saturday. So was it a draw at The Hawthorns? The matter turns on the little-regarded distinction between a match and a tie.

A tie happens when two clubs are drawn together in a cup competition and play a match (or a series of matches including replays) to determine which one goes forward to the next round. Nowadays it is impossible to settle all ties with replayed matches so in the event of a drawn match there is a tie-breaker, now almost universally the penalty shootout.

The penalty shootout is no more part of the match than determining the winner by the toss of a coin used to be. Bookmakers, a useful authority in this matter because they need to be precise, observe this distinction: if you predicted Arsenal to win this match you would have lost your money, though you could have won if you had predicted Arsenal to qualify for the next round by whatever means

It will be interesting to see if this sloppy thinking, that suggests Arsenal are still in a sequence of consecutive away victories in all competitions, persists. I suspect it will, because football is no stranger to denying inconvenient truths, despite the efforts of august bodies such as the Dubious Goals Committee. Just as irritating is the inability of TV news announcers to tell the difference between a tie and a fixture. Not wanting to come on a total Latin master I'll leave you to work that one out. Roger Titford

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