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Thursday, October 4, 2018

Champions League Group C: Late strike gives Napoli 1-0 win over Liverpool, Neymar and PSG go on rampage in Belgrade

NAPLES: Lorenzo Insigne scored in the 90th minute to give Napoli a 1-0 win over a surprisingly listless Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Having threatened all night without anything to show for it besides Dries Mertens’ volley off the crossbar, Napoli finally broke through when Insigne redirected a cross from Jose Callejon by the far post.
Insigne, who grew up in the Naples area, celebrated by creating a heart shape with his hands.
“It’s wonderful to win like this,” Insigne said. “We had a great performance as a team and wanted the result at all costs.”
The victory vaulted Napoli atop Group C with four points, one ahead of Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain, which beat Red Star Belgrade 6-1 in the other group match Wednesday. Red Star, which held Napoli to a scoreless draw in the opening round of matches, is last with one point.
“We know it’s a difficult group,” Insigne said. “But we want to make our mark in every game and put any opponent under pressure.”
With Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita taken off injured on a stretcher early in the first half, the visitors were restrained and Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly didn’t allow Mohamed Salah, Liverpool’s most dangerous striker, any room at all.
With the likes of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane _ the trio whose goals propelled Liverpool to last season’s Champions League final _ the Reds had scored 41 goals during their last 12 Champions League matches and had only failed to score in one of their last 18 games in the competition, including qualifying.
Against Napoli, Liverpool failed to muster a single shot on target in a Champions League game for the first time since February 2006 in a 1-0 loss to Benfica.
For Napoli, which had wasted an early lead in a 3-1 loss to seven-time defending Serie A champion Juventus at the weekend, it was the best performance under new coach Carlo Ancelotti.
“The team did well throughout the game. We never lost control,” Ancelotti said. “We were always very focused, above all when defending and allowed Liverpool practically nothing.
“I see the quality this team has, but with a little tension we don’t express ourselves the way we should,” Ancelotti added. “I hope this victory can build confidence and make us play with more freedom.”
Napoli supporters chanted long after the final whistle as their team went over and saluted the club’s hard-core “ultra” fans, who maintained a drum roll for the entire match amid a deafening atmosphere.
After seven straight wins in all competitions to open the season, Liverpool has now gone three matches without a victory, having lost to and drawn with Chelsea in its previous two fixtures.
One Liverpool fan was injured in clashes with Napoli supporters the night before the match. There was also a flare thrown into the area where Liverpool supporters sat inside the stadium.

Showman Neymar back to his best as PSG thump Red Star 6-1

PARIS: Neymar toyed with Red Star Belgrade’s defense, scoring a hat trick as Paris Saint-Germain beat the Serbian side 6-1 in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Far tougher challenges await PSG, which is desperate to prove it belongs among Europe’s elite after failing to reach the quarterfinals in the past few seasons. To go far this time, it needs Neymar in similar form later in the competition.
The Brazil star’s treble included two superb free kicks, taking his tally to 10 goals in eight games overall this season. He is back in top form, following a difficult World Cup where he stood out more for his theatrics than his match-winning ability.
“Neymar was outstanding. He was just sensational, magnificent,” PSG coach Thomas Tuchel said. “You can sense that he’s hungry, that he wants to make the difference and win the ball back.”
Tuchel went with his strongest line-up up front with Neymar, World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria in a 4-2-3-1 formation. They all scored in the first half except for Mbappe, who had to wait until the 70th minute for his goal following superb approach play from Neymar.
“It wouldn’t be fair just to talk about Neymar, but everything revolved around him,” Red star coach Vladan Milojevic said. “He’s on another level.”
After losing their opening group game to Liverpool, PSG played with the kind of intensity that has sometimes been lacking against weaker teams in past seasons, where it has failed to get beyond the quarterfinals of the competition despite huge expenditure on players and wages.
“It was a really top performance because we created a lot of chances,” Tuchel said. “I was most pleased with the second half because we kept going.”
Also Wednesday, Napoli beat Liverpool 1-0 in the other Group C game thanks to a 90th-minute goal from Lorenzo Insigne. The Italian side tops the group with four points, one ahead of Liverpool and PSG, while Red Star has one point.
Neymar, who scored twice in the French league last weekend, opened the scoring with his first free kick after 20 minutes, using his exquisite touch to perfectly flight the ball into the left corner.
Two minutes later, he swapped passes with Mbappe and sprinted into the penalty area to meet the teenager’s quick cross from the right with a powerful finish into the roof of the net.
Cavani skillfully beat two players before scoring with a deflected shot in the 37th, and Di Maria astutely guided in the fourth shortly before the break.
Neymar created the fifth in typically extravagant style.
He showed great close control to dribble to the edge of the area, and then cleverly flicked a ball over the defense. Left back Bernat read the pass and cut the ball back to give Mbappe an easy tap in.
After Mbappe missed a sitter _ his second of the night _ Red Star’s midfielder Marko Marin rifled a shot home in the 74th.
Neymar went off to a standing ovation with about 10 minutes left, just after curling in even better free kick into the top right corner.
PSG has won nine of 10 games this season, scoring 35 goals. But the 3-2 loss at Liverpool serves as a reminder it has trouble winning the big games.
Red Star last played in the European Cup in 1991 as holders, came through four qualifying rounds to reach the group stage and drew its opener 0-0 at home to Napoli.
“We had two players who had never played in the Champions League,” Milojevic said. “If this (defeat) is what it takes to make us better, it will be worth it.”
Red Star’s fans were officially banned from travelling for this match and the next away game, after causing trouble during its playoff at Salzburg.
Still, quite a few managed to get tickets independently and sat among PSG fans at the Parc des Princes stadium. They made their presence heard when Marin scored.
A strong police presence was in place around the stadium _ with both sides reputed for having hooligan elements among their supporters.
According to reports, about 150 PSG fans tried to attack a group of Serbian fans leaving the stadium after the game. Riot police quickly intervened to split the two groups and prevent the clashes from escalating.