Dazed Bayern seek rescue operation

MUNICH - Bayern Munich's surprise Champions League exit on Tuesday has left the Germans facing a year without any silverware and club bosses urging the team to rescue something from a poor season.

Bayern were favourites to advance to the Champions League last eight after a superb first half against holders Inter Milan on Tuesday, following their 1-0 win in Italy in the first leg.

But defensive weaknesses that have plagued them all season and a concentration lapse allowed Inter to come back and win 3-2 with an 88th minute goal to complete Bayern's misery after their German Cup exit and their poor Bundesliga title defence.

"This was a stab in the heart," said club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. "We must now try to rescue anything we can in the Bundesliga but that will not be easy. Somehow we have to regroup and get on with it."

Pressure is mounting on Bayern, who will host next year's Champions League final but face a tough challenge to finish second and qualify for the tournament automatically or at least finish in the top-three and play a qualifying round for Europe's premier competition.

They are in fourth place, 16 points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund with eight games left, seven-points behind second-placed Bayern Leverkusen and two points behind Hanover 96 in third.

"This was a self-inflicted defeat like so many this season," said coach Louis van Gaal, who has already fallen victim of their bad run and will be leaving at the end of the season, a year early.

"Now we must somehow drag the team out of that dark hole it is in because we still want to qualify for the Champions League."

With German media dubbing Van Gaal a lame duck, the 59-year-old Dutchman knows only too well that this will be a major challenge for his players, who lack the end-of-season consistency of last year when they won the domestic double and reached the Champions League final only to lose to Inter.

"We did this to ourselves and it is not the first time this has happened this season," a stunned Arjen Robben said.

"We can talk about it and analyse it but we have been doing it all season. We can't rescue this season anymore."