Champions League - Bayern ease through with win in Zurich
Bayern Munich coasted into the group stages of the Champions League courtesy of Mario Gomez’s early strike in a 1-0 win over FC Zurich in Switzerland.
The German side – who have won the European Cup four times and most recently reached the final last year before losing to Internazionale – completed a one-sided 3-0 aggregate win after a 2-0 first leg victory at the Allianz Arena in Munich last week had more or less put the tie beyond their European neighbours.
A powerful visiting side were always in control after Gomez dashed onto Tomas Mueller’s pass to slide the ball beyond Zurich keeper Johnny Leoni from 12 yards out on seven minutes at a brimming 31,000-capacity Letzigrund Stadium.
Bayern go into Thursday's draw for the group stages as they begin their bid to try to reach the final on German soil with their home stadium in Munich the host venue for this season's showpiece match.
The atmosphere will surely be better for that one than what was discovered in Zurich as Bayern's early goal killed the game off as a contest and a viewing spectacle.
It would not be ridiculous to say that the Swiss team enjoyed brighter moments when they travelled to Bavaria a week ago.
Their consolation is a place in the Europa League group stages. On this evidence, that will be no bad thing because they are clearly out of their depth at the highest level of European football.
How Bayern only managed to score one goal on the night in this play-off encounter is something of a minor miracle.
They knocked the ball around with a nonchalance that must give new coach Heynckes a fair degree of optimism as they try to succeed in Europe and wrestle the Bundesliga title away from fellow Champions League participants Borussia Dortmund.
Zurich's best moment of the night arrived on 20 minutes when the willing Ricardo Rodriguez's dipping free-kick was fisted out by Manuel Neuer in the Bayern goal. Such moments were sporadic though as Bayern dominated possession with some ease.
You tended to get the sense that Bayern could have stepped up the pace if they had to. As it was, FC Zurich should be thankful to the agility of Leoni for keeping them in the match.
Leoni made a superb one-handed save from Gomez moments before the break before the forward nodded over from five yards out seconds before the break.
Gomez was replaced by Nils Petersen at half-time, but the alteration did not stem the flow of pressure applied to the home goal as Petersen scooped a shot over the bar on 59 minutes before Leoni dived low to his left to keep out another decent effort from Petersen.
Franck Ribery looked certain to score on 76 minutes when he galloped into the home box, but Jorge Teixeira did wonderfully well to make a last-ditch tackle to stop the second goal from hitting the net.
The only blot on Bayern's landscape was their hesitancy to deal with free-kicks in a convincing manner. Against a better team than FC Zurich, it is unlikely to go unpunished. Bayern are one of the 10 play-off winners who are added to the 22 automatic qualifiers for the draw in Monaco.