Tie poised after Riviera draw

UEFA Champions League

OGC Nice are obliged to get a result in Amsterdam after allowing Ajax to cancel out Mario Balotelli's opener and claim a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round tie at the Allianz Riviera.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, first leg

Allianz Riviera, Nice

 OGC Nice 1 - 1 AFC Ajax


It was a real game of two halves for Nice, who banished the memory of their timid Europa League performances last season with a high-octane first half that featured Italy star Mario Balotelli turning home an accomplished assist from Ivorian midfielder Jean Michaël Seri (32').

The goal was a just reward for the Aiglons' enterprise and intensity but Lucien Favre's charges were caught out early in the second term. 'Keeper Yoan Cardinale opted to punch Justin Kluivert's cross - despite the absence of any immediate danger - and it fell for Donny Van de Beek to equalise (49').

The goal turned the match around and Ajax, with the momentum in their favour, piled on the pressure, Lasse Schöne (54') and Hakim Ziyech (77') testing Cardinale before Davinson Sanchez headed an effort onto the cross-bar (73').

Alassane Pléa, returning to action after lengthy knee injury, replied to a brace of late Ajax efforts with a fierce shot that went just centimetres wide, but the 1-1 result means that Nice are now obliged to score and get either a win or a 2-2 (or bigger) draw in next Wednesday's return leg at the Amsterdam Arena.

THE PLAYER: Mario Balotelli

The big Italian's opting to sign on for another season following a successful one-year deal for the 2016-17 campaign was a shot in the arm for Favre and his side and everyone saw exactly why on Wednesday night. Despite a somewhat nonchalant start to the match, Balotelli stepped up to the occasion when called on and deftly converted Seri's assist to put his side in the driver's seat.

And he continued to move well, draw defenders and find space right up until he was subbed off. A promising turn that should give Nice some confidence of getting the result they want in the Netherlands next week.


OGC Nice may have been disappointed to concede a draw, but Favre's side did manage to maintain a surprising record, keeping the Dutch giants winless in European matches in France (two draws, five defeats).


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