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Manchester City FC came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw with SSC Napoli in an entertaining opening UEFA Champions League Group A game.
Both teams were ending long exiles from Europe's elite competition but it was Napoli who struck first through Edinson Cavani midway through the second half. Their lead lasted just five minutes, however, as Aleksandar Kolarov's sweetly struck free-kick earned Roberto Mancini's team a point.
'Benvenuti' read the giant logo welcoming Napoli above the entrance to the Colin Bell Stand but City, victorious in their last ten home matches, immediately showed they intended their hospitality to end there, penning Napoli back in the early stages.
City's spending power has brought a rare level of expectation for a club new to the UEFA Champions League and with only one previous European Cup appearance, 43 years ago, to their name. City are no ordinary newcomers, though, and were soon threatening the Napoli goal.
Morgan De Sanctis foiled Sergio Agüero at the far post from Edin Džeko's flick-on and when Agüero and Džeko then combined on the ground, the Bosnian international sent an angled shot just past the far post.
For all City's possession, they very nearly fell behind in the 18th minute as Ezequiel Lavezzi stepped inside Vincent Kompany and side-footed a shot over Joe Hart and against the crossbar from the left. The hosts' early supremacy was waning, yet they went equally close before the break through Yaya Touré, who concluded a counter he had begun by driving against the crossbar from Agüero's lay-off.
Visiting coach Walter Mazzarri had described his team as "underdogs" on their first European Cup outing in 21 years but their counterattacking threat was growing. Soon after the restart Marek Hamšík volleyed Juan Zúñiga's far-post cross past Hart only to be foiled by Kompany on the goal line. Hamšík went close again when substitute Blerim Dzemaili played him in on the left but Pablo Zabaleta stuck out a leg to deflect his shot over.
Napoli kept knocking and duly got their goal after 69 minutes when Christian Maggio robbed Gareth Barry and drove forward before feeding Cavani to his right; the Uruguayan fired the ball low through Hart's legs. City nearly responded with Agüero striking the crossbar from close range but it was Kolarov who came to their rescue. After Zabaleta was fouled on the right-hand corner of the box, the Serbian international curled his free-kick over the wall of grey shirts and inside the near post.
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