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Balotelli-less Nice frustrated by Angers

Publish on 13/04/2018 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS

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OGC Nice let two points slide in the race for Europe, held to a 1-1 draw by Angers SCO at the Stade Raymond Kopa with Mario Balotelli struck down by illness.

Angers SCO 1-1 OGC Nice 

THE MATCH

Angers began the day seven places and ten points worse off than Nice, in seventh but they started the brighter of the two teams and were inches away from taking the lead when Flavien Tait's effort was deflected wide by Marlon (12'). Nice settled into their stride after that early scare, though, and midfield pair Pierre Lees-Melou (19') and Jean Seri (21') both had chances in quick succession that ultimately came to nothing. Seri is that rare breed of defensive midfielder capable of chipping in with a goal, and he came close to making it 1-0 with less than ten minutes of the first half to go, but Ludovic Butelle in the home goal did well to deny the Ivorian in the area after smart play out wide by Allan Saint-Maximin (36'). Angers nearly stole the lead on the stroke of half-time, but Arnaud Souquet slid in to deny Karl Toko Ekambi from close range (43') and the sides went into the interval with the deadlock intact.

Don't look back in Angers

That Seri has a single league goal this season compared to seven last owes much to the winds of fortune and had Alassane Pléa not headed his second-half free-kick harmlessly into Butelle's hands, he might have doubled his season tally (53'). The striker - with the goal burden fully on him with Balotelli out due to illness - made amends 15 minutes later, though. Again, Seri was involved, slipping Pléa through before the forward muscled off Vincent Manceau and lashed home his 14th goal of the Ligue 1 Conforama campaign (68'). Toko Ekambi has been linked with the English Premier League in recent weeks, and the trouble he caused Nice against the run of play make that little surprise. The Cameroonian did well to find space to latch onto a Thomas Mangani cross, but Walter Benitez denied him at the second time of asking (75'). Angers would have the last laugh anyway, though, with Angelo Fulgini thumping a late equaliser in off the crossbar (84').

THE PLAYER: Jean Seri

Seri was at the heart of everything Nice did right on Friday, enjoying a game-high 127 touches, winning 19 of his challenges in the middle of the park, and completing some 88 per cent of his passes. Les Aiglons will be collectively disappointed at having to settle for a share of the points here, but nobody deserves to be more so than the diminutive midfield metronome.

THE STAT: 10

Nice have on only won ten per cent of their Ligue 1 Conforama games this season in which Balotelli has been absent, compared to 52 percent of matches in which the Italian has featured. A late withdrawal from this clash with a stomach big, the striker is sure to start when Les Aiglons take on Montpellier Hérault SC in a must-win game in the European chase next Sunday.