Radamel Falcao's injury-time equaliser allowed reigning champions AS Monaco to salvage a point in a 2-2 draw with OGC Nice on Tuesday. Mario Balotelli had scored twice for the visitors at the Stade Louis II.
AS Monaco 2 - 2 OGC Nice
Monaco were heading for a rare home defeat, and a second Ligue 1 Conforama loss against Nice this season, as this game, played in difficult windy conditions, headed into stoppage time. But that was when Jorge, after being fouled on the edge of the box by Pierre Lees-Melou, got up to play a quick free-kick. Nice switched off, and Stevan Jovetic's shot was saved by Walter Benítez before Falcao - back for his first appearance of 2018 after injury - turned in the rebound for his 16th league goal of the campaign (90+2').
It was a let-off for Monaco, who were disappointing and looked to be heading for a first defeat in eight games in all competitions. And yet they had gone ahead in the first half of this Côte d'Azur derby. Adama Diakhaby and Keita Baldé both tried to get on the end of Thomas Lemar's cross from the right flank, and the ball fell kindly for Diakhaby to score (33').
The Nice players had appealed for a handball in the build-up, with the ball striking Diakhaby's hand and then Balde's upper arm, but referee François Letexier ruled that any contact was not deliberate and allowed the goal to stand.
However, the response from the visitors after the restart was excellent. They drew level in the 47th minute as Balotelli - making his first start of the new year - got in front of Kamil Glik to turn in Allan Saint-Maximin's cross.
They threatened to take the lead on the break only for a Djibril Sidibé sliding challenge that did enough to put off Wylan Cyprien as he shot, his eyes lighting up at the prospect of scoring in his first league start in 10 months after a serious knee injury.
Nice did go ahead midway through the second half, though, as Balotelli latched onto a Jean Michaël Seri pass before seeing his shot beat Danijel Subašić with the aid of a deflection off Andrea Raggi. It looked as if that would be the winner, but Falcao saved Monaco. The principality club have nevertheless now been leapfrogged by Olympique de Marseille in the race for a podium place.
THE PLAYER: Mario Balotelli
Classic Balotelli. The Italian marked his return to the starting line-up with two excellent finishes in the second half, taking him to 12 league goals for the campaign in 13 starts. An honourable mention should also go to Marlon, who defended impressively alongside Dante for the visitors.
THE STAT: 17
Nice have taken 17 points from the last 21 available in their last seven Ligue 1 Conforama games. They had been in the relegation zone before that with just 14 points from their first 14 matches.