Morgan De Sanctis saved a
second-half penalty from Mario Gomez as Napoli earned a 1-1 draw
against a dominant Bayern Munich in a lively Group A encounter
at the San Paolo stadium on Tuesday.
Bayern struck first with only two minutes on the clock when
Toni Kroos was allowed acres of space inside the Napoli box
before placing his shot into the corner.
Napoli, who have not lost at home since returning to
European competition three years ago, equalised on 39 minutes
when Christian Maggio's right-wing cross was deflected into the
net by Holger Badstuber's lunging dive.
Bayern piled on the pressure after Gomez had his 49th-minute
penalty saved but Napoli held on, with the result leaving the
Germans top of the group on seven points with Napoli in second
place on five. Manchester City lie third on four.
Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri said he was delighted to be
second at the halfway point of the group.
"Some people said that at this stage we would be bottom," he
told reporters. "We haven't set targets so after each game we
have to see where we are.
"Our boys are not used to games like these. After their goal
we changed tactics and played a great game. This is one of the
best sides in Europe - they've won twice already in the group.
In the end, we could even have won it."
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said the draw was a crucial step
towards qualification to the knockout stages.
"I'm not a prophet, but I'm confident now we will qualify,"
he told reporters. "We came here to win - and I think we
deserved the win - but I'm fairly happy with a draw.
"We went at Napoli at the start, controlled the game and
stayed tight at the back. Napoli played with a lot of heart and
I think they stand a good chance of qualifying too."
The German giants made the perfect start on two minutes when
Kroos collected Thomas Muller's pass and ran through the heart
of the Napoli defence before calmly side-footing the ball past De
Sanctis's despairing dive to silence the home fans.
Napoli tried to respond to the body-blow immediately, but
Hugo Campagnaro's seventh-minute drive whistled the wrong side
of the post.
Bayern, whose impressive early season form under Heynckes
has seen them open up a five-point lead in the Bundesliga, began
to boss things. Gomez, shooting wide from the edge of the box,
and Jerome Boateng, volleying a corner across the face of goal,
almost doubled their lead.
The Napoli attacking trio were failing to fire but they
equalised against the run of play six minutes before half-time
when Maggio, breaking down the right, saw his cross-shot take a
small but damaging deflection off Badstuber, wrong-foot Manuel
Neuer and nestle in the net to ignite the San Paolo.
There was more deafening noise after half-time but jeers when
Paolo Cannavaro was adjudged to have handled Gomez's fierce
shot. The cheers returned when De Sanctis dived to his left to
save Gomez's weakly hit spot-kick.
Muller should have given Bayern the lead on 54 minutes but
poked his effort wide of goal after another dangerous corner
produced an almighty scramble in the Napoli area.
Napoli, back in Europe's premier competition for the first
time since the days of Diego Maradona, struggled to muster a
clear-cut opening but managed to keep Bayern at bay to take
something from a match that had begun so badly.
"When I heard Manchester City had scored in the last minute
I just thought, 'that's football'," said Napoli President
Aurelio De Laurentiis, whose side would have been three points
ahead of the English club if Sergio Aguero had not scored a late
winner against Villarreal.
"We have nothing to lose. We are young and strong. Maybe a
draw will do against City."
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