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Mario Balotelli was kept largely quiet as his inconsistent Nice side drew 1-1 at home to fifth-place Nantes in the French league on Sunday.
Balotelli is Nice’s top scorer with 13 league goals, but the Italian striker was not at his sharpest against a team shrewdly coached by countryman Claudio Ranieri.
A rare goal from veteran Brazilian center half Dante gave Nice an early lead. Emiliano Sala replied for Nantes in the 27th minute, but the tall striker then headed wide from a corner in the fourth minute of injury time.
Nantes remains one point ahead of sixth-place Montpellier, while Nice an impressive third last season is in ninth spot. Nice has done well in spells, but has lost 11 games out of 26 and relies too heavily on Balotelli in attack.
He was involved in Dante’s opener after five minutes, when his snapshot from just inside the right of the penalty area was blocked and led to a corner.
Nantes cleared it, but not well enough and Nice regained possession immediately. Following a cross from the right, the ball bounced off a Nantes defender and fell to Dante, who gleefully swept it home from close range for his first league goal since joining last season.
Sala equalized when he sent goalkeeper Walter Benitez the wrong way from the spot, after defender Patrick Burner clumsily gave away a penalty. Sala has 11 league goals so far one fewer than all last season with Nantes.
Later Sunday, fourth-place Lyon was away to Lille and third-place Marseille hosted Bordeaux.
League leader Paris-Saint-Germain beat Strasbourg 5-2 on Saturday to remain 12 points clear of Monaco, which won 4-0 against visitors Dijon on Friday.