Group C wide open as Red Star shock Liverpool, Napoli and PSG draw 1-1

Red Star Belgrade stunned Champions League 2017-18 runners-up Liverpool 2-0 in Serbia on Tuesday with the Red Star striker Milan Pavkov scoring two first-half goals to leave the Reds reeling.

On the other hand, Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli played out a hard-fought 1-1 draw, leaving Group C absolutely wide open with Liverpool and Napoli on six points, PSG on five and Red Star at the bottom with four points.

It was a typical Champions League night where the most unexpected happened when Juergen’s Klopp Liverpool side slumped to an embarrassing defeat with Red Star turning back the clock to their European heyday.

It was the Serbian side’s first-ever win in the Champions League group stages on their maiden campaign in the present format of Europe’s elite club competition and their most memorable night since they won the 1991 European Cup.

It was also thoroughly deserved after a spirited performance from the home side in the cauldron of Red Star’s Rajko Mitic stadium.

The result left Liverpool facing a tricky path to the knockout stages, although they still have their fate in their own hands.

Red Star also have four points after they bounced back from successive drubbings by Liverpool and Paris St Germain following their opening goalless home draw with Napoli.

Liverpool are away to Paris St Germain in their next match before a potentially decisive clash with Napoli at Anfield.

Visibly disappointed after what could prove to be a costly setback, Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp conceded his side played well below par in a cracking atmosphere.

“It was a good football atmosphere, not one where it would have been impossible to perform, to be honest,” he told a news conference.

“We had our moments but we never really clicked or got back into the game after falling two goals behind. We gave them too many set pieces, they were more aggressive and deserved to win.”

Red Star’s fervent fans were taken down memory lane before kick off, as several of their stalwarts who were part of the team that beat Liverpool 4-2 on aggregate in the 1973-74 European Cup were paraded by the touchline.

Pavkov, a surprise starter up front as Red Star’s third-choice striker, gave the home side a 22nd-minute lead when he headed home from the edge of the six-yard box after a Marko Marin corner from the right.

It was no more than Red Star deserved after the opening 20 minutes, with centre back Vujadin Savic firing over early on before El Fardou Ben Nabouhane forced Liverpool keeper Alisson Becker to palm his low drive from 25 metres around the post.

Alisson could do nothing, however, as Marin swung in the corner and Pavkov rose above his markers to spark wild celebrations among the fervent 55,000 home crowd.

The atmosphere reached fever pitch seven minutes later as Pavkov doubled the home side’s advantage, rifling a screaming shot from 25 metres into the right corner of the net with Alisson well beaten.

Liverpool, whose midfield struggled against their more aggressive opponents, lost possession on the halfway line and Pavkov shrugged off Georginio Wijnaldum to find the time and space to unleash an unstoppable shot.

Mohamed Salah fired over the bar shortly afterwards to sum up a poor first half for Liverpool, with Daniel Sturridge also missing an early chance for the visitors when he skied his volley from close range.

Salah missed two good chances within a minute for Liverpool midway through the second half, forcing a good save from Red Star keeper Milan Borjan before he shaved the outside of the post with a shot from the edge of the penalty box.

The outstanding Borjan again denied Salah from close range in the 82nd minute as Liverpool piled on the pressure but the visitors could not find a way through Red Star’s packed and well-organised defence.

“This is a fantastic win for our club and our nation, we have now raised the bar and have to look ways to keep improving,” said Red Star’s delighted coach Vladan Milojevic.

“We’ve beaten a Champions League contender and I am very proud of my players.”


Neymar produced a typical performance for the French side, mixing brilliance with petulance and Napoli and PSG settled for a draw.

Juan Bernat gave PSG a deserved lead in first-half stoppage time before Lorenzo Insigne levelled from a penalty in the 62nd minute, after Jose Callejon pounced on a mistake by PSG defender Thiago Silva and was upended in the area.

Neymar did not get on the score sheet but was in the thick of the action.

The Brazilian showed flashes of inspiration and sowed panic when he ran at the Napoli defence. Yet there were also moments when he was too individualist, argued with opponents and he was eventually booked for sarcastically applauding the referee.

PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, making his Champions League debut for them after completing a three-match ban from last season, did not have a save to make in the first half of his first match in Italy since leaving Juventus.

Napoli struggled to play their way out of defence against PSG’s aggressive pressing and it was the visitors who had the better openings, eventually going ahead in the second minute of stoppage time.

Neymar released Kylian Mbappe down the left with a delightful chipped pass, the French World Cup winner twisted and turned his way past Raul Albiol and pulled the ball back to Juan Bernat who, despite stumbling, managed to beat David Ospina.

It was a different story after halftime as Napoli tore into the visitors.

Buffon twice denied Dries Mertens, then a Jose Callejon shot was blocked by Thilo Kehrer and Fabian Ruiz went close with a drive from outside the penalty area.

Buffon somehow managed to stop a Lorenzo Insigne shot on the line which he knew nothing about, and it took the penalty to finally beat the 40-year-old veteran.

Thiago Silva had failed to intercept the ball, Callejon nipped in and was caught in a sandwich between the keeper and the Brazilian defender. Insigne converted and the San Paolo stadium went wild.

The play remained open and niggly, but neither side were able to find a winner.

“In the first half, they had control of the game but there were very few dangerous attacks and the halftime score forced us to play with more force,” said Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti.

“I’m very happy because we came out of the two matches against PSG – one of the strongest sides in Europe – with a small advantage.”

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