surinenglish

Unicaja on the ropes after first leg EuroCup defeat to Bayern Munich

Gavel attempts to block Nedovic's advances
Gavel attempts to block Nedovic's advances / ALEX KLUGE
  • Joan Plaza's side were thoroughly outclassed by the German outfit, with Friday's match of utmost importance now for Unicaja to keep their semi-final hopes alive

Bayern Munich won the first match of a best of three quarter-final against Unicaja in Bavaria on Tuesday evening. Just as they did in the Copa del Rey against Barcelona, Plaza's side failed to match the Germans physically and paid a heavy price for their shortcomings.

The game did not begin well for the visitors at all, with two consecutive losses of the ball from Nedovic and the inefficient Lafayette foreshadowing things to come. Bayern imposed their physical intensity immediately but Unicaja initially managed to counteract the threat with their play in the centre of the court.

Nevertheless, the German side, and Taylor in particular, managed to nullify Nedovic, just as Barcelona had managed to in the Copa del Rey, which forced both Musli and Brooks to take on the responsibility of scoring the visitors' points. The duo filled in well and ensured Plaza's side only trailed by a point midway through the first quarter.

Unfortunately for Unicaja, Bayern stepped up their game and through three three-pointers they extended their lead to six points very quickly. Unicaja's reaction was immediate and a three-point basket from Smith kept the visitors within touching distance of their hosts, the latter ending the first quarter 21-18 ahead.

Bayern Munich reached another level physically at the beginning of the second quarter, and it caused the first real problems for their Spanish counterparts. Nine points without reply from the German outfit forced Plaza to call a time out. Although the Malaga side managed to regroup following the break, it proved to be insufficient in preventing Bayern from adding further points onto the scoreboard, as the hosts ended the quarter leading 42-36.

It was a strange first half for the Malaga side, who failed to show their true potential and had only managed to score four three-pointers from a possible seven, an aspect of the game from which Unicaja are usually strong.

Sadly, the situation would deteriorate early in the third quarter when three-point baskets from Kleber and Lucic saw Bayern add a further twelve points with just a solitary reply from Unicaja, really putting them on the back foot.

Omic's poor display with his shooting only made matters worse for Plaza's team and piled further pressure on their defence. Fogg came on as a consequence of the Bosnian's inefficiency and added a bit more rhythm to their play as they succeeded in reducing the deficit to eight points.

However, despite the additional rhythm provided by Fogg, Unicaja continued to lack consistency to overturn the German side's lead and with the ruthlessness of Zirbes, the highest scorer in the match, Munich kept themselves at a fair distance from Unicaja with the score 66-56 going into the final quarter.

The first few minutes of the last period of play was fatally damaging for Plaza and his team, who conceded seven points while scoring just two meaning that Bayern now led by some 15 points with just seven minutes remaining. The Germans seemed to take their foot off the gas as coach Ðordevic withdrew Zirbes, which appeared to give their visitors renewed energy.

The Spanish side scored sixteen points and conceded just four to drag the score back to 81-76 with two-and-a-half minutes remaining. Unfortunately, the Malaga side had left themselves too much to do in such a short space of time against a very professional side who then made sure of their victory and a 1-0 lead in the three-match tie with further baskets from American duo Booker and Johnson.

The sides will meet again on Friday night in Malaga in what is a must-win game for Unicaja.