France, May 1
Third-placed Nice won 3-1 at home to move within three points of defending champions Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in a possibly decisive result in the battle for the French football league title.
PSG are currently in second place in the Ligue 1 standings with 80 points from 35 matches, three behind league leaders Monaco who have a game in hand. Nice were trailing PSG by six points before the clash at the Allianz Riviera Stadium here on Sunday night, reports Xinhua news agency.
After Sunday’s victory, Nice are in the running for a spot in the group phase of the UEFA Champions League next season.
The visitors dominated possession in the first half but could not translate that into goals. Their best chance before the break came in the 17th minute when Edinson Cavani’s header was intercepted by Nice midfielder Jean Seri at the goal line.
Controversial Italian striker Mario Balotelli, who has struggled with his form recently, put Nice ahead on 26 minutes when he latched on to Ricardo Pereira’s pass and his lofted left-footed shot beat PSG goalkeeper Kevin Trapp.
It was Balotelli’s 14th league goal of the season.
Nice went on for another goal shortly after the restart, when Pereira cut inside the PSG penalty box to curl home in the 46th minute.
Cavani, PSG’s top scorer who was restrained by Nice’s defenders throughout the game, was almost involved in a clash with Balotelli.
PSG centre-back Marquinhos then pulled one back with a powerful header from a corner kick in the 64th minute.
PSG were reduced to 10 men due to Thiago Motta’s red card late in the game, and were handed another blow by Nice substitute Anastasios Donis, who scored a header off cross from the from the right flank.
PSG’s woes continued and the defending champions were down to nine players after Angel Di Maria was also shown a direct red card for a hard foul just before the final whistle.
“The coach told us defenders to stay calm and concentrated in stress, and not to follow the opponents’ rhythm. That was the key for our win tonight,” Nice defender Dante said.
“The win gave us more confidence. Three more games to go, we will try to get every point as we can,” he added.
“We had a tough win in this match. My philosophy is always to take the game one by one. After a brief celebration, we will prepare for our next game against Marseille,” Nice manager Lucien Favre commented.
Elsewhere, Florian Thauvin’s hat-trick earned Olympique Marseille a 5-1 away victory over Stade Malherbe Caen, moving just one point short of fifth-ranked Bordeaux, who were held to a goalless draw by relegation-threatened Dijon FCO.
France, May 1