Nice closer to Ligue 1 leaders, Balotelli shown red card on return

Paris, Feb 19: Nice closed the gap from Ligue 1 leaders Moco to three points on a 1-0 away victory over the bottom-ranked Lorient, as Italian striker Mario Balotelli got his third red card in the French top-flight football league season on his return from injury.

Balotelli on Saturday came back from last week’s injury against Rennes, replacing the team’s top scorer Alassane Plea, but the Italian who netted nine league goals so far was sent off for talking in an ippropriate manner to match referee Tony Chapron in the 68th minute, reports Xinhua news agency.

It was Balotelli’s third red card in this season’s Ligue 1, while his first, also against Lorient last October, was overturned.

Without their two prolific scorers, Nice had to settle down on the second place past defending champions Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) on Wylan Cyprien’s only goal of the match 15 minutes into the game.

However, PSG can get back the position and cut the deficit against Moco, who were held 1-1 against Bastia a day earlier, to a single point with a home win against Toulouse on Sunday. Lorient still sat bottom of the ranking with just 22 points in 26 games. Also on Saturday, Marseille overcame absence of their injured leading scorer Bafetimbi Gomis for a 2-0 win over Rennes, fuelled by Clinton Njie and Florian Thauvin’s goals around the hour mark. In other matches, Angers edged past ncy 1-0, Caen lost to Lille 1-0, and Metz recorded a 1-1 draw against ntes. IANS