Manchester City needed Aleksandar Kolarov's free-kick to rescue a point against Napoli as they suffered a frustrating night on their Champions League debut.

Roberto Mancini's men might have swept all before them in the Premier League this season but they found things a lot harder against the Italian side on their return to elite European football after a 43-year absence.

And it could have ended up being a memorable evening for City for the wrong reasons when Edinson Cavani finished off a swift counter-attack to give Napoli the lead after 69 minutes.

Kolarov spared his side's blushes with a wicked, curling strike into the corner of the net six minutes later but, with Bayern Munich and Villarreal to come, Group A is not going to get any easier.

With Mancini demanding a "fast start" from his men in his programme notes, expectations had been high before kick-off at the Etihad Stadium, bedecked in Champions League branding for the first time.

He almost got it when Samir Nasri fired a yard wide with a snapshot from the edge of the area while Edin Dzeko went closer still with an angled drive that beat Morgan De Sanctis but zipped past the post.

Mancini points to Champions League nerves

Napoli seemed happy to defend deep and looked to attack on the break and that tactic almost saw them break the deadlock after 18 minutes.

Vincent Kompany's mis-timed lunge left striker Ezequiel Lavezzi free to run into the area and curl a delicious shot against the bar with City keeper Joe Hart beaten.

City's best effort of the first half also came on the counter-attack, with Yaya Toure starting, and almost finishing a breathtaking move.

Toure intercepted on the edge of his own box and sprinted up field, feeding Sergio Aguero before meeting his return pass with a thumping shot against the bar.

Despite being on the wrong end of a couple of crunching tackles, Aguero continued to look lively but Napoli's back-line held firm and De Sanctis did well to push away a bouncing Kolarov free-kick when he was called into action.

Things continued in the same pattern after the interval, with City seeing more of the possession but Napoli threatening thanks to some intelligent counter attacking.

The Italian side went close again when Marek Hamsik arrived from midfield to meet a left-wing cross with a precise volley, but Kompany was on hand to hack off the line.

Did you know?

Aleksandar Kolarov's free-kick was the first Manchester City goal in the European Cup since Tony Coleman netted the opening goal in a 2-1 defeat at Fenerbahçe in the first round of the 1968/1969 competition

That was City's second warning and they would quickly face a third when Pablo Zabaleta had to deflect a goal bound Hamsik shot over the bar.

By now, Napoli were in the ascendancy and got their reward when they took the lead with a superb breakaway goal

When Nasri gave the ball away cheaply, defender Christian Maggio surged forward and slipped Cavani clear to slot the ball under Hart.

Going behind brought more urgency to City's attacking play but initially they remained out of luck inside the area, with Aguero flicking Nasri's cross on to the bar.

That quickly changed, however, when Kolarov curled a precise free-kick over the wall and into the corner of the net.

There was still time for one final scare when Kompany's short backpass almost let Goran Pandev in, but Hart was off his line quickly to avert the danger and ensure City's bid to become the first side to win the Champions League on their debut did not begin with a damaging defeat.

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