Bayern breathe collective sigh of relief

BERLIN - Bayern Munich breathed a collective sigh of relief after booking a Champions League group stage spot with a 3-0 aggregate win over FC Zurich, taking the first step to what they hope will end with an appearance in the competition's final in Munich next year.

Bayern made sure of their place in Europe's premier club competition with a 1-0 win in Zurich on Tuesday following their 2-0 first leg win at home last week.

"A huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders because this is where Bayern belongs," said Bayern sports director Christian Nerlinger.

The record German champions only narrowly clinched third spot in the league last season, leaving them having to play off for a group spot and some jittery nerves as they are desperate for a good run in the competition with the final to be held on home turf next year.

Failure to qualify would also translate into a loss of 20 million euros in revenues.

"We have been feeling the pressure on the club and players in the past few weeks but we have now taken that crucial first step," Nerlinger told reporters.

Striker Mario Gomez's seventh minute strike quickly settled any nerves and put the game essentially out of the Swiss team's reach with the hosts needing four goals to advance.

Bayern, under new coach Jupp Heynckes, have yet to concede a goal in four consecutive league and European games this season.

"After our goal, we were not nervous any more because defensively we are a very good team and allow little to happen in the back," Heynckes said. "It may have looked easy but we played very good football."

This is exactly what club bosses have been asking Heynckes to do as they eye a Champions League final spot in front of a home crowd.

Dutch coach Louis van Gaal was sacked late last season with the team's defensive operation looking more like Swiss cheese than traditional German steel.

"We wanted that early goal to settle our nerves and for the rest of the game we followed through exactly like we should do," said scorer Gomez.

The four-time European champions will now wait to find out their group opponents at the competition's draw on Thursday.


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