Crushing Bayern victory takes heat off Van Gaal

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The Independent Online

Bayern Munich's general manager, Christian Nerlinger, yesterday labelled Tuesday night's 4-1 Champions League thrashing of Juventus a "huge step forward". Things finally seem to be clicking for Bayern after a disappointing start to the season which has left them four points off the pace in the Bundesliga.

After back-to-back league wins, Louis van Gaal's men have booked a place in the last 16 of the Champions League at the expense of Juve and there is a positive air in the camp with two games before the winter break.

"We've taken a huge step forward," Nerlinger said. "Making the next stage in the Champions League is extremely important to the club. We've fought our way back in the Bundesliga too. If we now beat Bochum and Hertha, we'll be able to look back on a very decent first half of the season. Even I was surprised by our total dominance, we played Juventus off the park right from the start and kept making chances. It was classy stuff."

Bayern were on top from the off and, despite falling behind to a David Trezeguet goal, went in level at half-time thanks to goalkeeper Hans-Jörg Butt's penalty, before sealing the win with strikes from Ivica Olic, Mario Gomez and substitute Anatoliy Tymoschuk. Butt said: "I've really enjoyed playing Juventus over the years, and that's not my first goal against Juve. The trend has been good in recent matches. But it wasn't easy. We went a goal behind, and we all know the Italians can normally defend, so we knew it would be hard work. But it just shows how well we played."

Gomez said: "We're totally delighted, partly because of the way we won. It was a near-perfect display. Juve had one chance, otherwise we dominated, played the football, battled away and made chances. That's the best goal of my career, sensational. I've rarely been as pleased with a goal as that."

The result should ease some pressure on Van Gaal, who has not had the easiest start to his time in Munich. He said: "All the players are thrilled, and so is the board. I said nothing at half-time, and that doesn't happen very often. I just said it was great, and we'll win if we carry on the same way. And that's exactly what happened."

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