Dries Mertens’ first half goal helped Napoli secure a 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield in the Champions League on Wednesday evening.
Napoli took an early lead through Mertens, as the Belgian raced clear to fire beyond Alisson, but a sustained period of pressure in the second half saw Dejan Lovren head Liverpool level.
The draw keeps both sides’ hopes of progressing from Group E ahead of the final round of fixtures, as Liverpool sit two points clear of Napoli at the summit of the table.
Napoli enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges and having seen Lovren block a low Mertens strike, the Belgian was soon rewarded with a goal.
Taking advantage of a gap at the back, Mertens sprinted on to Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s inch-perfect lofted pass to break into the box, finding the bottom corner with a magnificent first time effort across the face of goal.
In a half of few clear cut opportunities, Liverpool sprung into life as halftime approached. Sadio Mane played a clever one-two with Roberto Firmino in the box before reaching the byline and cutting back for Joe Gomez to tap in at the back post, only for Kalidou Koulibaly to scramble clear.
On the stroke of halftime James Milner collected the ball and burst into the box to blast on goal, forcing a strong hand from Alex Meret.
Despite a slow start to the second period, Liverpool again began to turn the screw and Koulibaly was once again forced to clear off the line. A Jordan Henderson cross into a crowded box was dropped into the path of Firmino, and the Senegalese defender was on hand to block the Liverpool striker’s hooked effort.
Piling on the pressure, Liverpool first saw Mohamed Salah drill straight at Meret after being released by Andy Robertson, before Firmino nodded wide at the back post from a fine Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain delivery.
As Napoli scrambled to keep the hosts out, the Champions League holders’ second half dominance finally told, with Lovren rising highest to meet a corner and power home an equaliser.
Having conceded, the Partenopei looked to close Liverpool out and restricted the home side to speculative crosses, without pressing forward themselves.
The draw sees both teams close in on qualification from Group E, although victory for Red Bull Salzburg over Liverpool would require Napoli to defeat Genk to seal their spot in the next round.