Roma draw against 10-man Napoli

Last season's Serie A runners-up Roma failed to capitalise on Internazionale dropping two points in their opener when they too were were held to a draw at home to 10-man Napoli on Sunday.

Champions Inter got their 2008/09 campaign up and running with a 1-1 draw at Sampdoria, handing Roma the opportunity to steal a march in the early standings.

Alberto Aquilani put the home side ahead in the 29th minute as they dominated the first half, but it was a different story in the second 45 minutes with Marek Hamsik netting a deserved equaliser in the 55th minute - shortly after Fabiano Santacroce was sent off for the visitors.

Both teams searched for a winner, and had chances to get one, but honors ended even in an entertaining game at the Stadio Olimpico.

Roma coach Luciano Spalletti fielded debutantes Julio Baptista and John Arne Riise in a line-up which was without injured captain Francesco Totti.

Napoli arrived in town with their big summer signing Deni partnering Ezequiel Lavezzi in attack, but without many of their fans - who only arrived at half-time due to a delayed train.

The first half belonged to Roma. Aquilani was their most dangerous player and he opened the scoring in the 29th minute, adding the finishing touch to an excellent move.

Daniele de Rossi had the vision and composure to chip the ball into the path of Aquilani, who cushioned it with his chest before beating Gennaro Iezzo from 10 yards with a volley.

Aquilani then provided Mirko Vucinic with the chance to double the hosts' lead just before the break, but the Montenegrin was unable to beat Iezzo after being found by an exquisite pass from the Roma midfielder.

As the first half came to its end, Aquilani brought a fine save out of Iezzo with a low shot from the edge of the penalty area.

The arrival of the delayed Napoli fans brought a transformation to their team as they kept Roma on the back foot for the first 10 minutes of the second period.

Walter Gargano's free-kick which whistled inches wide of the left-hand post was just a warning for the Roma defense.

Lavezzi almost provided an early contender for goal of the season as he imitated compatriot and Napoli idol Maradona by weaving his way past three Roma players before pulling his shot just wide of the post.

Hamsik could not get a telling touch to a Gargano cross just in front of goal in the 53rd minute and it seemed their chances of getting back into the game were over a minute later when Santacroce picked up his second yellow card in three minutes.

But within a minute, Napoli were indeed level, and deservedly so.

Denis headed a corner back across goal where Hamsik crept in to head against the crossbar.

The rebound did not go far, though, and Hamsik had time to turn and volley the ball into the empty net before the Roma defenders and goalkeeper Doni could recover.

Roma missed a glorious chance to get back ahead as Vucinic and Baptista both shifted the ball to their right with Cicinho the last in line and the first to try a shot which was blocked by a Napoli defender.

Aquilani had the goal gaping in front of him as a quick free-kick allowed De Rossi to cross the ball behind the Napoli defence, but it arrived too quickly for Aquilani to control.

Doni prevented Lavezzi from giving the visitors the lead in the 88th minute before Roma substitute Jeremy Menez somehow fired his shot wide with an open goal in the last minute of a riveting game at the Stadio Olimpico.

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