Super Mario does it again
Mario Balotelli struck a brilliant matchwinner four minutes from time but was then sent off as OGC Nice defeated FC Lorient 2-1 on Sunday to return to the top of Ligue 1.
OGC Nice 2-1 FC Lorient
After losing their first four games of the season, Lorient had won two of their last three, including their meeting with Olympique Lyonnais in Week 7. That victory had come courtesy of a goal from Jimmy Cabot, who was again in great form from the off at the Allianz Riviera.
He had already outfoxed Dalbert once with a delightful flick before he again bamboozled the Brazilian full-back on the flank and skipped away from Malang Sarr before forcing Yoan Cardinale to save at his near post (9').
It was a routine stop, but Cardinale's opposite number, Benjamin Lecomte, soon showed there is no such thing. Admittedly, Ricardo Pereira's drive was well-struck, but the Lorient captain will acknowledge he should have done much better than allow the ball to ricochet off his hands and into the net (11') to hand the hosts the initiative.
A mistake by Sarr went unpunished as Cabot shot wide (17') before Arnold Mvuemba, back for a second spell at Lorient after signing this summer, sent a free-kick narrowly wide early in the second half (47').
Balotelli should have done better than head beyond the far post soon after (51'), and his miss looked worse in the context of Benjamin Moukandjo's 61st-minute equaliser - the Cameroon international striker's finish after he had raced onto Mohamed Mara's through ball was symptomatic of a man who now has four league strikes already this term.
The former Monaco man's goal would have been celebrated just down the road in the principality as it meant they would remain leaders of Ligue 1; those ASM fans must also have been bitterly disappointed to see a Mara shot strike Jean Michael Seri's outstretched boot and hit the crossbar - rather than the net - in a good spell for Lorient (73').
But in Balotelli, Nice have a bona fide matchwinner, and after substitute Valentin Eysseric and Wylan Cyprien had combined to tee him up, he did not disappoint. Cutting inside to provide a glimmer of an opening, the deadline day signing from Liverpool arrowed a shot into the top corner for his fifth league goal in three games (86').
That he will not be able to add to that tally against Lyon next time out is partly his own doing. Having been booked for removing his shirt after scoring, Balotelli then clashed with Steven Moreira in added time to be shown a second yellow card by referee Olivier Thual.
THE PLAYER: Mario Balotelli
Another league goal and a first red card of his career in France. He remains a one-man matchwinning, headline-making machine.
THE STAT: 10
Nice have now won eight times in a ten-game unbeaten run in Ligue 1 stretching back to last season.