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Neftçi hold Partizan on group stage debut

FK Partizan 0-0 Neftçi PFK
The hosts could not make any inroads against Neftçi, who battled their way to a well-earned point in their first game in a UEFA group stage.

Neftçi's Nicolás Canales (right) challenges Aleksandar Lazevski
Neftçi's Nicolás Canales (right) challenges Aleksandar Lazevski ©AFP/Getty Images

Neftçi PFK marked their debut in the UEFA Europa League group stage with a battling point at FK Partizan, who could not find a way through the visitors' committed defence.

Boyukagha Hajiyev's side were stout throughout. They attacked when they had the opportunity, and could even argue that they created the best chances, but had to resist long bouts of pressure from Partizan who just could not make the breakthrough.

Neftçi were certainly not overawed on their first group stage outing and looked to get forward at every opportunity early on. Nevertheless, it was Partizan who threatened first as they worked the ball neatly across the edge of the penalty area to Nemanja Tomić. His low strike defeated goalkeeper Saša Stamenković, but Igor Mitreski scrambled back to clear.

That proved to be the closest Partizan would come before the break as the visitors grew into the game. Indeed, Vladimir Stojković had to make a smart stop from Cavid Imamverdiyev's low header and Rashad A. Sadygov whistled a shot over from distance.

Partizan raised the tempo in the second half, but the Neftçi defence, with Mitreski at the heart of it, held firm. The centre-half was having a running duel with forward Aleksandar Mitrović, and coming out on top. With 11 minutes remaining, substitute Miloš Jojić had a rare sight of goal but again, he was closed out.

The hosts were becoming increasingly exasperated and as the match entered added time, they squandered their best chance of the game as Tomić fired wide when well placed.