BELGRADE (Reuters) - Red Star Belgrade ground out a 0-0 home draw against Napoli on the Serbian side’s Champions League debut as their goalkeeper Milan Borjan made a flurry of telling saves in a pulsating Group C clash on Tuesday.
The visitors twice hit the woodwork and missed a string of chances, leaving their manager Carlo Ancelotti frustrated after dropping points in a tough group that also includes Liverpool and Paris St Germain.
“It was close, we just lacked the final spark,” said Ancelotti, who also praised Borjan and refused to criticise his players.
“We failed to win an important game but there are still five more to go and we can beat anyone. We made little mistakes in passing and shooting and were unlucky too.”
Red Star’s Australia international defender Milos Degenek was overwhelmed by the atmosphere.
“I almost broke down to tears when I heard the roar from the terraces,” he told reporters.
“It was a dream come true. It was a tough game, we fought hard and had to defend for very long spells. We are delighted and have now made life difficult for Napoli.”
Napoli dominated the opening half and twice went close to taking the lead as Lorenzo Insigne rattled the crossbar and Borjan denied Arkadiusz Milik from close range with a fine reflex save.
Roared on by a fervent 55,000 home crowd, 1991 European Cup winners Red Star were rarely able to get out of their own half but their packed midfield and well-organised defence largely kept Napoli at bay.
Several last-gasp tackles early in the second half kept Red Star afloat and they threatened for the first time in the 58th minute when Napoli keeper David Ospina palmed away a fizzing low shot by halftime substitute Dusan Jovancic.
Borjan smothered a Piotr Zielinski effort shortly afterwards and substitute Dries Mertens shot wide from the edge of the six-yard box as Napoli continued to pile on the pressure with crisp one-touch passing.
Mario Rui shaved the bar with a curling free kick and a Red Star defender cleared Jose Callejon’s shot off the line after another darting raid by the visitors down the left flank, with the home side hanging on desperately.
With Red Star’s 1991 generation watching after they received a standing ovation from the fans prior to kick off, the home side nearly scored against the run of play when Ospina saved an 80th-minute shot from striker Richmond Boakye.
Napoli could not find a way through in the final stages as Red Star closed ranks, drawing loud cheers from their fans after salvaging a point with a gritty performance.
Editing by Toby Davis