By I. Holyman
Mario Balotelli scored a second-half matchwinner as OGC Nice came from behind to beat FC Nantes 2-1 on Sunday.
FC Nantes 1-2 OGC Nice
Having won their last five home games — their best streak at the Stade de la Beaujoire since their 2000-01 title-winning season — Nantes were brimful of confidence.
The quickly capitalised on that self-belief — Koffi Djidji’s long punt upfield was brought down by Emiliano Sala, who moved forward before teeing up Yacine Bammou to fire a crisp drive that skidded past Walter Benitez (12′).
The opening goal fitted Nice’s sorry history in Nantes where they had won just once in their last nine trips, but Lucien Favre’s men have picked up momentum in recent weeks, and they clawed their way back into it.
Balotelli fired a free-kick straight at Ciprian Tatarusanu (34′), and after Allan Saint-Maximin had found the woodwork in flicking on a Jean Michael Seri corner (41′), Alassane Plea headed home firmly from another set-piece by the Ivory Coast international to level before the break (42′).
After it, both sides struggled to refind their rhythm, but Walter Benitez’s charge from his goal to smother at the feet of Emiliano Sala sparked the game into life (71′).
Saint-Maximin teed up Balotelli for a shot that was straight at Tatarusanu (74′) before doing the same thing just 60 seconds later. From just outside the box, Balotelli measured up a shot that he curled just inside the post for his ninth league goal of the season (75′).
It would have only been enough for a point though had Benitez not brilliantly palmed out Jules Iloki’s close-range header less than a minute later (76′) as Nice picked up a fourth win in six outings to move into the top half of the table.
THE PLAYER: Walter Benitez
While Balotelli, Nice’s number nine, will get the headlines, the plaudits in the dressing room will surely be for their number 40, Benitez, without whom the visitors would have had just a point. Clearly growing in confidence with every game, the Argentine promises to make it tough for Yoan Cardinale to get back in the side.
THE STAT: 100
Plea’s goal was his 25th in his 100th Ligue 1 Conforama appearance.