Sports & Games

Champions League: Red Star shock Liverpool 2-0, PSG held by Napoli again

Written by PaperDabba
Image Source : GETTY IMAGES

Red Star defeated Liverpool 2-0

Red Star Belgrade produced one of the biggest upsets of this season’s Champions League by beating Liverpool 2-0 on Tuesday, reviving memories of its time as one of Europe’s top soccer teams.

Milan Pavkov scored in the 22nd and 29th minutes as the Serbian champions earned a first win in their debut appearance in the Champions League group stage. They last played in the European Cup in 1991 as holders, when beating the likes of Liverpool would not have been regarded as such a surprise.

Back then, eastern European teams were genuine contenders for club football’s biggest prize — Steaua Bucharest of Romania was European champion in 1986 — and Red Star had some of the world’s best players like Robert Prosinecki and Dejan Savicevic.

Nearly three decades on, Red Star doesn’t have a household name in its squad and needed to qualify for the group stage through the playoffs. It was also thrashed 4-0 by Liverpool at Anfield in the previous round when the gulf between the sides was huge.

Two weeks later, Red Star — playing in front of a loud and passionate home crowd — kept Liverpool’s fearsome attacking unit quiet and, in Pavkov, had its own star striker.

He leapt highest at a corner to head in a right-wing delivery from Marko Marin and put Red Star ahead. Pavlov then showed another side of his game, shrugging off Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum to get the ball onto his right foot and smash a fierce shot past goalkeeper Alisson from 25 meters.

Daniel Sturridge, who started up front for Liverpool in place of Roberto Firmino, sidefooted over the bar from close range in the first half and Mohamed Salah saw his shot strike the post after halftime. A deflected cross from Liverpool left back Andrew Robertson also bounced onto the crossbar after the break in Belgrade.

The English club has now lost both of its away games in the group stage, having been beaten 1-0 at Napoli last month. Napoli and Liverpool both have six points after the Italian team’s 1-1 draw with Paris Saint-Germain in Naples later Tuesday.

Red Star moved onto four points and its home form means it still has a chance of a top-two finish. Red Star drew 0-0 with Napoli in its previous home game.

Liverpool finishes the group with a trip to PSG and a home game against Napoli.

“You can’t give teams that start,” Liverpool midfielder James Milner said. “The crowd is big for them and it’s been a long time since they’ve been in the Champions League. Napoli found it tough when they came here and we knew it was going to be a tough place to come.

“We need to win our games, it’s on our shoulders … it’s in our hands but we will have to play better than we did tonight.”

STALEMATE AT NAPLES

Image Source : AP

Napoli drew PSG

After 180 minutes, Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain finished dead even.

Following a 2-2 draw in Paris two weeks ago, the teams played out a 1-1 stalemate Tuesday in another riveting Champions League matchup.

While it was PSG which needed a last-gasp equalizer in the first meeting, this time Lorenzo Insigne’s penalty for Napoli canceled out Juan Bernat’s opener for the visitors.

Kylian Mbappe set up Bernat’s goal and Gianluigi Buffon’s collision with Jose Callejon earned Napoli its penalty, while Neymar was hardly a factor.

“I’ve never seen anyone come to Napoli and play easily here. As I told my teammates, I’ve had a pretty long career and I’ve won at Napoli twice, so it’s pretty complicated,” said Buffon, who transferred to PSG for this season after nearly two decades at Juventus. “I think PSG showed today we are a solid team and that’s a crucial element if we want to go far in the Champions League.”

In an extremely tight Group C, last season’s finalist Liverpool and Napoli lead with six points each.

PSG is next with five points and Red Star Belgrade, which stunned Liverpool 2-0 in Tuesday’s other group game, is still in contention with four points.

Mbappe had been controlled by Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly before he finally broke free down the left flank and pulled back a cross for the advancing Bernat in first-half added time.

There was tension as the teams walked off the pitch at halftime as Koulibaly and Napoli midfielder Allan had to be separated from PSG midfielder Marco Verratti.

Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti then went to protest to the referee, perhaps because he thought there was more than the single minute of announced added time.

However, it was a deserved advantage for PSG, which controlled for long stretches.

After the break, Buffon showed that he’s still — at age 40 — one of the world’s most skillful goalkeepers with a series of reflex saves.

First, Buffon deflected a dangerous angled effort from Dries Mertens. Then he made a leaping save to push another effort from Mertens over the bar with his fingertips.

However, Buffon couldn’t stop himself from slamming into Callejon when the Spain winger got sandwiched between the goalkeeper and defender Thiago Motta.

Buffon guessed right on the direction of Insigne’s spot kick but the Napoli striker’s shot was struck precisely into the bottom corner.

Buffon was making his Champions League debut for PSG, having served a three-match ban for his comments about the referee at the end of Juventus’ run last season.

Still viewed as a rival from his Juventus days, Buffon was booed loudly on each touch.

Insigne now has three goals in four Champions League matches this season and 10 in 14 games in all competitions this season.

Napoli captain Marek Hamsik made a record 512th appearance for the club.

“Napoli mostly tried to keep the tempo down and slow it down in the first half, but then after going behind they changed their approach and poured forward,” Buffon said. “There was a period of adjustment after the break, when Napoli came out fighting and it was only natural to be under pressure. In the end, there was one half each and a draw was a fair result.”

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