Mario Balotelli helped OGC Nice salvage a 2-2 draw against modest Stade Malherbe Caen on Friday in a result that could prove costly to the south coast side’s Ligue 1 title dream.
Balotelli’s strike deep in the second half followed minutes later by Anastasios Donis’ leveler pushed Nice into second ahead of the rest of the weekend’s games.
Aside from the dropped points, Nice manager Lucien Favre will also be fretting over midfielder Wylan Cyprien, who left the pitch on a stretcher with a serious-looking right-knee injury.
“It’s very complicated when we are being led 2-0 at home, so we’re happy with the point for a draw,” Favre said. “We’re on 63 points, whereas for the past fortnight [two weeks] we’ve had to make do without our top scorer [Alassane Plea, out for rest of season]. Wylan Cyprien is injured, it looks serious.”
Balotelli had the first shot on target, a 25m effort that fell safely into the arms of Caen goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre.
On 35 minutes a Caen counterattack caught Nice on the hop.
An unmarked Vincent Bassat crossed for Ivan Santini, who rose highest to head past Nice goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale.
Caen came out after the break and quickly doubled their lead courtesy of a fine piece of individual artistry from Yann Karamoh.
In a move originating from the Caen area the striker ran onto a long pass, lobbed the outrushing Cardinale and raced onto the rebound to make it 2-0.
Balotelli put Nice back in the hunt, the flamboyant Italian knocking in Dante’s header after a high ball from the left on 71 minutes left Vercoutre struggling.
The hosts were level shortly afterward when Donis picked up another assist from the left, the English-born Greek forward’s shot crossing the line after the ball had hit first the left post then the right.
Elsewhere, a brace from Florian Thauvin and a goal from Remy Cabella earned Olympique de Marseille a 3-0 home win over midtable Angers SCO to push Rudi Garcia’s side up to fifth.
RCD Espanyol twice relinquished the lead, but still beat UD Las Palmas 4-3 in La Liga on Friday, keeping alive their hopes of qualifying for the Europa League next season.
Espanyol scored through David Lopez in the first minute and Gerard Moreno just before halftime, but failed to hold on to the lead as Mauricio Lemos twice equalized for the visitors.
Pablo Piatti put Espanyol ahead again by converting a penalty and Jose Manuel Jurado added an insurance goal in the 74th minute.
Mateo Garcia netted Las Palmas’ final goal in the 84th minute.
Staff writer, with AP, BERLIN
Werder Bremen drew 1-1 with Bayer Leverkusen in Bundesliga action on Froday.
Claudio Pizarro scored a late equalizer for Bremen after Kevin Volland headed in a goal in the sixth minute.
Staff writer, with AP, LONDON
Stoke City and Manchester City played out a goalless draw in the Premier League on Friday. City missed an opportunity to move ahead of Tottenham Hotspur into second.
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