Radamel Falcao rescued Monaco with an injury-time equalizer in a 2-2 home draw with local rival Nice on Tuesday, after Mario Balotelli showed his finishing ability with both goals for the visitors.
Falcao scored from close range after substitute Stevan Jovetic’s shot was parried following a quickly-taken free kick. It was the Colombia striker’s 16th league goal in just 17 games and it cruelly usurped Balotelli’s otherwise match-winning performance.
“We should have won the game,” Nice coach Lucien Favre said. “We played much better in the second half.”
The draw leaves defending champion Monaco third and trailing second-place Marseille _ which earlier beat Strasbourg 2-0 _ by one point. League leader Paris Saint-Germain will move 13 points clear of Monaco if it beats Dijon at home on Wednesday.
Monaco led in the 33rd minute thanks to a controversial goal by forward Adama Diakhaby.
Thomas Lemar’s cross from the right hit Diakhaby’s arm. The ball then hit the back of striker Keita Balde and bounced back into Diakhaby’s path. It came back at a perfect height, too, and Diakhaby was able to hook it home from close range.
Nice’s players reacted angrily and protested furiously.
“To tell the truth, it was a hand ball. It was accidental,” Diakhaby said on Canal Plus television. “I turned to see if the referee would give it (the goal) and he did.”
After a terrible start to the season, sixth-place Nice is finding form. Balotelli has improved on his scoring ratio from last season and has 12 league goals in 15 games so far.
His talent, as evident as it has been errant over the years, should get him a move to a bigger club this summer. But Favre deserves credit for resurrecting his fading career.
Since joining from Liverpool on a free transfer last season, Balotelli has confounded critics who predicted he would fail and has netted 35 in 51 games overall.
Balotelli astutely nipped ahead of center back Kamil Glik to volley in Allan Saint-Maximin’s cross from the right in the 47th minute.
In a rare show of emotion, Balotelli rushed over to Saint-Maximin and hugged him for several seconds while congratulating him on the cross.
The second goal was expertly taken.
Taking a pass with his back to goal some 30 meters out, he cushioned it on his left foot, switched it instantly onto his right and then pirouetted in one swift movement. He then made a surging run past Glik into the right of the penalty area, before clipping a deflected shot into the opposite corner.
This time the celebration was typical Balotelli.
He stood as motionless as a statue with both arms raised, showing no facial emotion as his teammates did the celebrating for him.
Substitutes Clinton Njie and Dimitri Payet settled a scrappy match as Marseille beat Strasbourg 2-0.
After Marseille striker Valere Germain missed a second-half penalty, Njie scored in the 79th minute.
Then, Njie’s smart flick sent Payet clean through in the 87th _ and the France international dummied goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja with a quick step-over move, before rounding him and tapping in.
Payet came on early in the second half and won a penalty in the 72nd _ but Germain’s telegraphed shot was saved by Oukidja.
He made amends by helping to set up Njie’s goal.
BAYSSE COSTS BORDEAUX
Bordeaux center half Paul Baysse lost his composure and his side lost 2-0 at home to Caen.
Both goals came after Baysse _ recently signed to shore up a poor defense _ was sent off in the 86th minute for elbowing Ivan Santini. The referee awarded a penalty and Baysse got a red card.
Santini escaped sanction despite first slapping Baysse _ and converted the penalty. His strike partner Ronny Rodelin sealed the win for ninth-place Caen.
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