The 2019/20 Champions League got underway on Tuesday night and both Liverpool and Chelsea succumbed to defeats in their opening matches.
Ross Barkley fluffed a late penalty as Frank Lampard suffered a 1-0 defeat to Valencia on his Champions League debut as Chelsea manager.
In a tightly contested first-half, Mason Mount was forced off with an injury following a nasty tackle from former Arsenal star Francis Coquelin.
The Spaniards were supposed to be there for the taking, having arrived in west London in turmoil following the sacking of popular boss Marcelino last week, a move which has angered the players as well as the fans.
But in the 74th minute Valencia stunned Stamford Bridge, with Rodrigo giving the Chelsea defence the slip as he raced onto Daniel Parejo’s chipped free-kick and swept the ball past Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The drama reached fever pitch five minutes from time when Chelsea’s players appealed for a handball, and replays did indeed show Fikayo Tomori’s header had struck the hand of defender Daniel Wass.
After an interminable VAR delay a spot-kick was finally given but Barkley, on as a substitute just seven minutes earlier, took responsibility only to crash his effort against the frame of the goal.
Liverpool began the defence of their Champions League crown on a losing note as Dries Mertens’ penalty and Fernando Llorente’s injury-time strike handed Napoli a 2-0 victory.
On a balmy night at the intimidating Stadio San Paolo, the Reds fell behind in the 82nd minute when Mertens converted from the spot after Andy Robertson had upended Jose Callejon in the area.
Substitute Llorente – part of the Tottenham side beaten by the Reds in last season’s Champions League final – then took advantage of a mistake from Virgil Van Dijk to bag his first goal for Napoli after joining them earlier this month.
Liverpool have started their Premier League campaign with five successive victories but largely struggled for composure in their Group E opener, while they lacked a clinical edge on a night where they were barracked throughout by a boisterous home support.
They were indebted to a couple of crucial saves from goalkeeper Adrian for keeping the scores level and, though Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah went close for the visitors, their errors in the later stages proved costly.
This was their second defeat in Naples inside a year, having gone all the way in Euorpe’s elite club competition despite losing all three matches away from Anfield in the group stage last season.
Champions League results
RB Salzburg 6-2 KRC Genk
Napoli 2-0 Liverpool
Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Barcelona
Benfica 1-2 RB Leipzig
Ajax 3-0 Lille
Chelsea 0-1 Valencia
Inter Milan 1-1 Slavia Prague
Lyon 1-1 Zenit St Petersburg