Lead­ers Nice edged by dis­puted Caen penalty

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

PARIS: Ta­ble-toppers Nice suf­fered their first Ligue 1 de­feat of the sea­son yes­ter­day when they went down 1-0 af­ter a hotly dis­puted penalty at Caen.

The south­ern side still top Ligue 1 with 29 points ahead of Monaco on 26 while cham­pi­ons Paris Saint Germain are third on 23 ahead of their late night game at home to Rennes. Nice have sur­pris­ingly set the pace in France this sea­son un­der new coach Lu­cien Favre and with added zest in front of goal in­spired by Ital­ian cen­tre for­ward Mario Balotelli. But af­ter a tough de­feat in the Europa League in mid­week and an away match at the very op­po­site end of France at Caen they suf­fered their first league re­verse of the cam­paign.

The goal came from the penalty spot and was con­verted by the Croat Ivan San­tini af­ter the ref­eree de­cided Ronny Rodelin had been fouled in the area on 42 min­utes. “We con­ceded just be­fore the break and that’s never good. We should have gone in 0-0 at the break,” lamented Favre. “And then we tried to do it all too quickly. We had a cou­ple of chances and that’s all you should nor­mally need,” he said.

The win lifts Caen, them­selves early pace­set­ters in Ligue 1 last sea­son, on to 13 points and three points above the rel­e­ga­tion zone. De­spite Nice field­ing a strong line up with their top scorer Alas­sane Plea with seven league goals, and Balotelli with six lead­ing the at­tack, they came up against a deep sit­ting de­fence and mid­field. “They were well or­gan­ised at the back with five de­fend­ers and were very com­pact, dif­fi­cult to get past,” Favre ex­plained.

A sting­ing Balotelli drive on the hour af­ter a quick-fire pass from Younes Bel­handa hit the bot­tom of the Caen post and was their best op­por­tu­nity.

On Satur­day Radamel Fal­cao con­tin­ued his re­turn to promi­nence with a brace as Monaco kept up their su­perb form by thump­ing Nancy 6-0 at the Stade Louis II.

Fal­cao’s goals, the sec­ond of which came from the penalty spot, were fol­lowed by a Kylian Mbappe strike mo­ments af­ter his sec­ond-half in­tro­duc­tion.

Guido Car­rillo added two late goals either side of a Fabinho penalty as the prin­ci­pal­ity club moved clear in sec­ond place.

The win also un­der­lined Monaco’s sta­tus as the most pro­lific side in Europe’s big five leagues-they are av­er­ag­ing three goals a game af­ter 12 matches and have scored at least six goals on three sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions since the start of Oc­to­ber.

“We are do­ing bet­ter this year, pro­vid­ing a spec­ta­cle,” said coach Leonardo Jardim. “We are also pleased to have the best at­tack in Europe ahead of Barcelona with Messi, Suarez and Neymar.”

Fourth-placed Guingamp came from be­hind to draw 3-3 at Di­jon with Bel­gian sub­sti­tute Nill De Pauw equal­is­ing in stop­page time. Toulouse were held to a 1-1 draw at Nantes while Lyon needed an Alexan­dre La­cazette penalty-his 10th goal of the sea­son-and a Pierre Bengts­son own goal to beat nine-man Bas­tia 2-1.

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