Lorenzo Insigne hit the crossbar and Mario Rui grazed it, but Napoli only left Red Star Belgrade’s legendary Marakana with a point.
This result puts Napoli second in their group, as Liverpool beat Paris Saint-Germain 3-2, but this is the kind of game they really should be winning.
The Partenopei began their Champions League campaign at the Marakana, one of the most intimidating atmospheres in European football. It was Red Star Belgrade’s first game in the tournament proper since it developed group phases, although they won the European Cup in 1991 and paraded some of the players in that glorious side before kick-off. Fabian Ruiz was surprisingly given his debut for the Partenopei, benching Marek Hamsik and Dries Mertens.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men dominated possession from the get-go and on 18 minutes Lorenzo Insigne unleashed a scorcher that bounced off the crossbar where it meets the far post.
Goalkeeper Milan Borjan used his legs to deny Arkadiusz Milik’s angled drive after running on to a long ball over the top from Piotr Zielinski.
Milik saw a dangerous cross pushed off his head, then forced a save at the near post with a half-volley on Zielinski’s dinked assist.
Allan’s powerful attempt was too central to surprise Borjan and Zielinski’s first touch let him down, allowing Milan Rodic to make the sliding tackle.
Mario Rui came very close on 56 minutes, his free kick grazing the crossbar as it dipped and swerved.
David Ospina’s first genuine save came moments later, as he got down slowly to meet a Dusan Jovancic long-range attempt.
Ancelotti shook things up with Mertens replacing Allan, moving Zielinski back into midfield. It almost paid off within five minutes, but Mertens incredibly fired wide from close range on a Callejon assist at the near post.
Callejon thought he had scored on 67 minutes, his curling finish going around Borjan, but Rodic was back there for a decisive goal-line clearance.
Insigne wasn’t expecting a horrible Borjan fumble as he tried to throw the ball and didn’t react quickly enough to take advantage. The goalkeeper’s confidence seemed shaken and he struggled with a long-range Insigne strike too, but Boakye tested Ospina when his effort on the counter nutmegged Kalidou Koulibaly.
Crvena Zvezda 0-0 Napoli
Crvena Zvezda: Borjan; Stojkovic, Savic, Degenek, Rodic; Jovicic (Jovancic 56), Krsticic; Ben Nabouhane, Causac, Marin (Simic 86); Boakye (Pavkov 80)
Napoli: Ospina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Allan (Mertens 60), Zielinski (Hamsik 75), Fabian; Callejon (Ounas 75), Milik, Insigne
Ref: Marciniak (POL)