Balotelli scores again as Nice stretch lead

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

MARIO BALOTELLI starred once again as clin­i­cal Nice opened up a six-point gap at the top of Ligue 1 with a 4-1 thrash­ing of Nantes yes­ter­day.

The mav­er­ick for­ward, back in form af­ter night­mare spells at Liver­pool and AC Mi­lan, scored his sixth league goal of the sea­son and was in­volved in two oth­ers as Nice took their un­beaten run since the start of the sea­son to 11 matches.

Wy­lan Cy­prien scored a brace and Alas­sane Plea also net­ted while Emil­iano Sala replied for the vis­i­tors at the Al­lianz Riviera, as Nice played with panache and in­ci­sion.

“We de­served to win but we had some dif­fi­cult mo­ments, par­tic­u­larly early on,” said Nice coach Lu­cien Favre.

“Nantes had two good chances and if they had scored at that time, things might have been dif­fer­ent.”

Favre made light of Nice’s six­point cham­pi­onship lead over Monaco and Paris Saint-Ger­main, adding of Balotelli: “He had a full week of rest (af­ter in­jury).

“But I say and re­peat: there is still much work for him to do. To­day he did some ex­tra de­fen­sive work, which is pos­i­tive.”

The league lead­ers were slow out of the blocks but soon be­gan to take con­trol of pro­ceed­ings, with Balotelli, 26, at the heart of it as they opened the scor­ing.

The Italy star ran on to Younes Bel­handa’s chip over the top and although he was stopped in his tracks by des­per­ate last-gasp de­fend­ing, the ball broke to Cy­prien to slot into the empty net on nine min­utes.

Nice were pil­ing on the pres­sure and the Nantes back­line cracked again as Balotelli ran onto a long ball from Jean Seri and calmly took a touch be­fore plac­ing the ball past Remy Riou and into the bot­tom cor­ner.

Nantes weren’t com­pletely out of con­tention and Yacine Bam­mou should have done bet­ter than fire over from Lu­cas Lima’s cross 10 min­utes be­fore half-time.

Nice kept com­ing, though, and Ri­cardo Pereira’s goal-bound shot was blocked by de­fender Diego Car­los.

But the hosts shot them­selves in the foot at the start of the sec­ond pe­riod as Mathieu Bod­mer tried to drib­ble the ball out of de­fence on the edge of his box.

He was robbed by Sala, who stroked a sump­tu­ous shot into the top cor­ner on 47 min­utes.

Sud­denly Nice were reel­ing and strug­gling to hold on against a re­ju­ve­nated Nantes, with Sala and Mar­iusz Stepin­ski spurn­ing good chances.

But the tide turned again on the hour mark as Plea rose ahead to head home Seri’s cor­ner.

Min­utes later a sub­lime flick from Balotelli sent Pereira scam­per­ing to­wards goal and he pulled the ball back for Cy­prien to drill home.

Sec­ond-placed Monaco lost ground in the ti­tle race with a 1-1 draw at Saint-Eti­enne on Satur­day.

Kamil Glik put Monaco ahead af­ter five min­utes but the hosts pulled level just 13 min­utes later through Loic Per­rin.

Cham­pi­ons Paris Saint-Ger­main are be­hind Monaco only on goal dif­fer­ence af­ter win­ning 1-0 at Lille on Fri­day night thanks to a goal from Uruguay for­ward Edin­son Ca­vani.

Rudi Gar­cia is still look­ing for his first league win as Mar­seille coach af­ter his side drew 0-0 with Bordeaux at the Stade Velo­drome in his first home game.

Mar­seille re­main mired in midtable in 10th. – AFP

Nice’s for­ward Mario Balotelli (C) vies with Nantes’ Yacine Bam­mou (R) dur­ing their French Ligue 1 match at the “Al­lianz Riviera” sta­dium in Nice yes­ter­day. –

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.