Napoli struggled badly in the first half against Rijeka, but fought their way back to win 2-1 with Diego Demme and Matteo Politano forcing an own goal.
The Partenopei lost their Europa League opener to AZ Alkmaar and won away to Real Sociedad, but Victor Osimhen was suspended and Lorenzo Insigne not fully fit, so Andrea Petagna and Eljif Elmas started upfront. Rijeka were bottom of the group and had a squad badly affected by COVID-19.
Alex Meret had to make the first save, as Luka Menalo hit a scorcher from distance that Alex Meret had to fingertip round the post. Giovanni Di Lorenzo also needed a last-ditch tackle on Menalo when he intercepted a loose Kalidou Koulibaly pass.
The hosts had the better start and took a deserved lead with Robert Muric firing in from the edge of the box after a well-worked passing move between Menalo and Sandro Kulenovic.
Rijeka continued to press, as Nikola Maksimovic got a decisive deflection on Muric’s finish at the end of another positive move, then Muric tested Meret from the resulting corner.
The Croatians lost goal-scorer Muric to injury, but continued to dominate, as Kulenovic robbed Kalidou Koulibaly to sting Meret’s gloves at the near post.
The first Napoli shot on target was also the equaliser, as Mertens ran on to a loose ball down the left and rolled it across the six-yard box for Diego Demme to tap in.
Rijeka almost restored their lead straight after the restart with a counter-attack, but Menalo’s curler bounced off the upright with Meret stranded.
Stanislav Lobotka fired over and Andrea Petagna just failed to get his head to a Mario Rui cross, but Mertens had a huge opportunity when his free kick was fingertipped on to the crossbar by Ivan Nevistic.
Napoli turned the game around with a stroke of luck, as Mario Rui’s cross only grazed the heads of Petagna and Politano, but it bounced off the leg of defender Filip Braut and into the net from six yards. UEFA gave the goal to Politano, although it didn’t look to be going in without that deflection.
The Partenopei were more comfortable as the game went on and created chances to extend their lead, as Demme’s effort from close range was charged down and Nevistic performed a stunning one-handed save to deny Piotr Zielinski.
It could’ve been more late on, but a deflection on the cross took it just beyond Hirving Lozano sliding in from five yards.
Rijeka 1-2 Napoli
Muric 13 (R), Demme 43 (N), Politano 62 (N)
Rijeka: Nevistic; Escoval, Velkoski, Smolcic; Tomecak, Cerin, Muric (Yateke 24) (Stefulj 64), Loncar, Braut (Raspopovic 64); Menalo, Kulenovic
Napoli: Meret; Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Mario Rui (Ghoulam 80); Demme, Lobotka (Fabian Ruiz 60); Politano (Lozano 69), Mertens, Elmas (Insigne 60); Petagna (Zielinski 80)
Ref: Gestranius (FIN)