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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bayern edge closer to Champions League group stage


Bayern Munich took a step closer towards the UEFA Champions League group stages after a comfortable victory against Swiss champions FC Zurich at the Allianz Arena.

Bastian Schweinsteiger scored with a deft header from an Arjen Robben cross early in the first half, continuing his fine start to the season. Last week he scored for Germany as they beat Brazil for the first time in 18 years.

Bayern dominated the rest of the first half with Dutch international Robben and French winger Franck Ribery ripping Zurich's defense apart.

But despite carving out several clear cut opportunities, forcing two point blank saves from Zurich goalkeeper Johnny Leoni, hitting both the post and the bar and with Mario Gomez being profligate three times in front of an empty goal, the Swiss side hung on.

Finally their resistance was broken when Robben scored with a curling left foot effort in the 72nd minute, giving Bayern a comfortable 2-0 cushion ahead of next week's second leg.

Elsewhere Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb virtually booked their place in the next round by thrashing Swedish side Malmo 4-1, Brazilian-born striker Sammir scoring twice at the Maksimir Stadium.

Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa raced to a two goal lead against Racing Genk but a goal early in the second half by Israeli international Elyaniv Barda, against his former club, saw the match finish 2-1 leaving the second leg in Belgium finely poised.

A late goal from highly-rated winger Patryk Malecki handed Polish side Wisla Krakow a slender 1-0 lead against Apoel Nicosia.

But it was Denmark where the only upset of the night took place. Odense beat Spain's Villarreal 1-0 following an awful defensive mix up between goalkeeper Diego Lopez and Colombian defender Cristian Zapata.

Zapata, making his debut after signing from Italian side Udinese, hit a woeful back pass to Lopez in the 84th minute which was seized on by Hans Henrik Andreasen and smashed back past the keeper.

With the Spanish season due to start this weekend Villarreal, who finished fourth in La Liga and reached the last four of the Europa League, looked short of match fitness.

A planned player's strike in the Spanish league could delay the start of the league further, but Villarreal will have to improve if they are to overturn the one goal deficit in Spain next Tuesday.


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