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Balotelli strikes again to sink old club

Publish on 10/03/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS

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Mario Balotelli netted the only goal against his old side as Olympique de Marseille beat OGC Nice 1-0 at the Orange Vélodrome on Sunday to continue their revival.

Olympique de Marseille  1 - 0  OGC Nice

THE MATCH

This game of few chances was settled by Balotelli's 61st minute goal, as the Italian striker nonchalantly headed low into the corner from six yards from a Lucas Ocampos cross for his fifth goal in seven appearances since moving to OM from Nice in January. There was no group selfie as a celebration this time, but instead Balotelli marked his latest goal by indulging in a game of rock-paper-scissors with Florian Thauvin.

The Italian's arrival has helped inject new life into Marseille's season, and Rudi Garcia's side have now won five and drawn one of their last six Ligue 1 Conforama matches, form that has lifted them to within three points of the podium. They are also now four points better off than Stade de Reims in fifth position.

Garcia was rewarded for keeping faith in the same team that started last weekend's 2-0 home win over AS Saint-Etienne. Dimitri Payet and Kevin Strootman were restricted to camoes from the bench, while Luiz Gustavo did not come on.

There remains no reason for Garcia to change a winning team, even if they did find it hard to break down Nice and their five-man defence. Chances were few and far between before and after Balotelli's goal, although Florian Thauvin was unlucky late in the first half when he cut in from the right and tried his luck - Walter Benítez tipped his shot over the bar.

Nice offered very little going forward themselves, and they have now suffered four consecutive away defeats, failing to score in any of them. They slip to ninth, still in touch with the European places but with just 20 goals scored this season - only bottom club EA Guingamp (18) have scored fewer goals.

THE PLAYER: Mario Balotelli

Marseille started with two former Nice strikers up front as Balotelli was partnered by Valère Germain. It had to be 'Balo' who got the winner though. He failed to score for Nice this season before moving along the Mediterranean coast in January, but the move seems to have brought the best out of the Italian again. He is the first Marseille player to score in each of his first four home league appearances for the club in the last 45 years.

THE STAT: 16
Marseille have taken 16 points from a possible 18 in their last six games. They had taken just 12 points from their previous 12 games. Next up for OM is a trip to Paris Saint-Germain.