Richmond Boakye-Yiadom in action as Red Star Belgrade frustrate Napoli in Serbia
Ghana striker Richmond Boakye Yiadom was in action as Napoli were left to rue their missed opportunities after a goalless draw to Red Star Belgrade saw them begin their Champions League campaign in a disappointing fashion.
Arkadiusz Milik and Lorenzo Insigne had chances in the first half, benefiting from the good service provided to them by Piotr Zielinski, but neither could break the deadlock meaning Napoli went goalless in a Champions League game for only the third time.
The home side were rarely able to test David Ospina having been pegged back by the Neopolitans for much of the game, drawing more praise for their defensive display rather anything they could conjure getting forward.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side must have thought they’d taken the lead after an absolute screamer from Insigne seemed goal-bound, but the ball clattered off the woodwork. The Red Star Belgrade keeper Milan Borjan was called on to deny Milik with his legs after Zielinski found his compatriot with a well-weighted pass.
Borjan was certainly the busier of the two goalkeepers, dashing off his line to knock the ball away from Milik before the Pole could get his header away. Shortly after the Polish pair of Zielinski and Milik linked up again to great effect, but Borjan was able to smother the ball after Milik’s shot at the near post on the half-volley.
The second half began just as brightly as the first for Napoli. Zielinski looked to be through with a chance on goal, but a heavy touch allowed Milan Rodic to make a crucial sliding tackle. Mario Rui was next to test the home side’s goal, his free-kick coming tantalisingly close to open the scoring.
A rare foray forward for the hosts saw Dusan Jovancic fire in an effort that Ospina was able to parry away for a corner. In response, Ancelotti sent on Dries Mertens, who really should have put his side in front when Callejon slid the ball in behind but the Belgian put it wide.
Napoli started to become more and more desperate, Callejon bending his shot into the bottom corner but Rodic was there to clear it off the line heroically. Borjan was almost caught out when he released the ball loosely in his box, fortunate Insigne wasn’t aware of his blunder. More of the same
Sadly for Carlo Ancelotti, the draw continues a disappointing trend for Napoli in European competitions. Defeats to Shakhtar Donetsk, Feyenoord and twice to Manchester City saw Napoli crash out of the competition last season, which was made all worse when RB Leipzig knocked the Italian side out of the Europa League a few months later. Their record in Europe isn’t pretty and hasn’t been pretty for a while, and with tougher tests to come in the form of Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain the odds are stacked against Napoli. Firing blanks
Despite positive performances on a whole in Serie A, notably a 3-2 win over a rejuvenated Milan side, the feeling is Ancelotti hasn’t got his side functioning as effectively as Maurizio Sarri managed during his tenure. The likes of Lorenzo Insigne and Piotr Zielinski have certainly stood out as star performers so far and the absence of Jorginho could serve as a decent excuse, but quite simply Napoli should confident of carving apart the likes of Red Star Belgrade. Red Star Spirit
The Serbian side held their own for ninety minutes against one of the most attacking side in Europe. Milan Borjan was a wall between the sticks despite one or two crazy moments, while Milan Rodic set the example in defence. While their chances of surviving the group seem remote at this stage, clinching a late winner in a similar scenario could see Red Star Belgrade claw their way into the next round.