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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Man City and Napoli cancel each other out

Manchester City and Napoli both marked their Champions League debuts with a goal but were unable to record maximum points tonight. The two clubs were appearing in the competition for the very first time and they were able to produce an entertaining, high-tempo Group A affair at Etihad Stadium which ended 1-1 after two second-half goals.

Napoli opened the scoring in the 69th minute when they hit City on the break with Christian Maggio taking possession in his defensive third before advancing all the way to the top of the opposing penalty area before dishing for Edinson Cavani who slotted it through the legs of Joe Hart.

But five minutes later, the home side replied when they won a free-kick outside the area on the right-hand side and Aleksandar Kolarov stepped up to curl it through the wall and past a stunned Morgan De Sanctis who failed to dive for the ball. The Serbian defender was substituted immediately after breaking his nose earlier.

City were well on top early by dictating terms and it looked like they were going to grab the game by the scruff of the neck but Walter Mazzarri's Napoli made life difficult for the star-studded outfit and also created chances of their own.

Both sides hit the crossbar in the first half with the visitors unlucky not to take the lead in the 18th minute when Ezequiel Lavezzi beat Hart but not the woodwork with an exquisite shot when he opened his body to get clear in the area.

In the 34th minute, there was a fast break for City as Yaya Toure played Sergio Aguero through and the Argentine turned his marker deep in the area before cutting back for Toure who hammered the underside of the crossbar.

De Sanctis pulled off a great save when Kolarov's bouncing free-kick evaded all in the box with the Napoli keeper pushing it to safety just as it looked like it was destined for the back of the net five minutes before half-time.

The out-and-out chances were not as frequent in the second half even though it was the section of the match where the two goals did come but Napoli could have hit the front soon after the re-start when City captain Vincent Kompany came up with a brilliant goal-line clearance of Marek Hamsik's side-footed volley from the right side of the penalty area.

This preceded another top drawer block from Kompany to deny the Italians when Hamsik was played into the area.

Roberto Mancini added Adam Johnson to the equation with about 15 minutes left and he made an immediate impact by cutting inside from the right to Edin Dzeko who turned and took a loose shot on his left when David Silva was there facing the goal.

Moments later, an angled shot from Johnson forced De Sanctis into a save which thankfully he did dive for this time before there was a shaky moment late for City when Kompany's backpass for Hart was short and substitute Goran Pandev tried to pounce on it but Hart's advances forced him into a heavy touch.

It was a match which could have gone either way but a result which will be taken differently by both managers as the visitors got a vital point away from their fortress in Naples.

TRIBAL ASKS: City might be making light work of it domestically but do they have their work cut out for them in Europe?

Manchester City (ENG): 1 (Aleksandar Kolarov 74') Napoli (ITA): 1 (Edinson Cavani 69') Etihad Stadium, Manchester - approx. 44,000

Yellow cards:MANC - Pablo Zabaleta 24' NAP - Christian Maggio 15', Paolo Cannavaro 31', Salvatore Aronica 43', Gokhan Inler 59'

Match facts: Champions League debut for Man City and first game in Europe's top flight since 1968/69s European Champion Clubs' Cup.

Similar for Napoli who last contested the 1990/91 Champions' Cups.

First-ever meeting between the two clubs.

Man City unbeaten in last 13 European matches.

Second match since Christmas 2010 in which City have not won at home.

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Andrew Slevison
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Andrew Slevison

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