Bayern, Villarreal glide into group stage

Updated: 2011-08-25 07:45

(China Daily)

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 Bayern, Villarreal glide into group stage

Zurich's Heinz Barmettler (left) tries to defend as Bayern Munich's Mario Gomez scores the first goal during their Champions League playoff second-leg match in Zurich on Tuesday. Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters

PARIS - Bayern Munich and Villarreal avoided embarrassing exits from the Champions League on Tuesday as they cruised into Thursday's group stage draw after winning their respective play-off clashes.

Bayern - making a rare appearance at this stage of the competition after finishing third in the league last season - beat FC Zurich 1-0 away thanks to a Mario Gomez first-half strike to win 3-0 on aggregate.

Villarreal - who could be forgiven for lacking match sharpness after the first round of Spanish league matches were called off last weekend because of a players strike - trounced Danish league runner-up Odense 3-0, to win 3-1 on aggregate.

Villarreal's highly-rated striker, Giuseppe Rossi, grabbed a double to ensure the 'Yellow Submarine's' place in the group stages for the third time in what was an ill-tempered match that saw a player from each side sent off.

Malmo nearly pulled off a remarkable win, as regarded as no-hoper after losing the first leg 4-1, going 2-0 up four minutes from time against Dinamo Zagreb but it couldn't find the goal that would have seen it progress on the away goal rule.

Belgian side Genk and Israeli outfit Maccabi Haifa's clash went all the way to penalties - the match having finished 2-2 on aggregate - with Genk prevailing 4-1.

The loser at least has the consolation of going into the Europa League group stage draw.

Gomez's goal ensured Bayern will go into Thursday's draw as one of the 10 playoff winners who join the 22 automatic entrants.

"We have fulfilled our duty to reach the main draw, there is no particular opponent we want to face - we have to beat everyone," said striker Nils Petersen, who came on for the injured Gomez in the second half.

Bayern - which is hoping to go all the way to the final which is being staged at Munich's Allianz Arena on May 19 next year - join fellow German sides Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen in the main draw.

Munich had few problems in Zurich as the host rarely troubled Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer while Munich barely got out of second gear.

"It was important for us to get an early goal, so that we had a commanding 3-0 lead," said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes.

"After that, the tension wasn't so great in the team.

"It was very important for Bayern Munich to be in the group stages."

Rossi showed why he is one of Europe's most-coveted strikers with a second-half double to set Villarreal on its way to victory.

The Spanish side must have been beginning to wonder where a goal was going to come from as Stefan Wessels saved everything that came his way until five minutes into the second half, when Rossi stabbed home a low Nilmar cross.

That goal cancelled out Hans-Henrik Andreasen's strike which had given Odense the narrowest of first-leg leads.

The spectators at the El Madrigal were on their feet again midway through the second half when a wonderful cross from deep on the right flank from Cani was met by Rossi, leaving Wessels with no chance.

Odense knew an away goal would still swing the tie back in its favor, but it hopes were dealt a huge blow when Bashkim Kadrii was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Numerical parity was restored when Scottish referee Craig Thomson showed a red card to Borja Valero for a retaliatory headbutt on Andreas Johansson, but Villarreal put the outcome of the tie beyond doubt when substitute Carlos Marchena's shot was fumbled over the line by Wessels.

Agence France-Presse

(China Daily 08/25/2011 page24)