PARIS: Former Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli struck twice on his Nice debut to help his new side defeat Mediterranean rivals Marseille 3-2 in Ligue 1 on Sunday.
Balotelli, signed on a free transfer after being allowed to leave Anfield, converted a seventh-minute penalty to open the scoring at the Allianz Riviera and struck again to level 12 minutes from time.
Florian Thauvin had equalised for Marseille and Bafetimbi Gomis’ 72nd-minute spot-kick then put the visitors ahead, but Balotelli’s second of the game set up a thrilling finale with Wylan Cyprien’s long-range shot bursting through the hands of Yohann Pele.
“Two goals, it’s a good first match, he hasn’t needed any time to adapt,” said Nice captain Paul Baysse of Balotelli, as the hosts moved level on points with Monaco at the top.
“His last match was several months ago. Tonight he gave us 90 minutes, although we had planned to take him off at some stage. It’s just one match, he still has a lot of work to do and he knows that,” added Nice coach Lucien Favre.
Mevlut Erding netted a hat-trick as promoted Metz strolled to a 3-0 victory at Nantes, Philippe Hinschberger’s men climbing into the top three after a third win in four matches this term.
Paul Georges-Ntep provided an assist on his long-awaited return from injury as Rennes beat Caen 2-0 in Brittany, Wesley Said and Sanjin Prcic with the goals for the home side.
On Saturday, Monaco claimed top spot as Djibril Sidibe, Adama Traore, Fabinho and Kamil Glik all scored in a crushing 4-1 victory away to Lille.
However, Lyon endured another miserable afternoon as Alexandre Lacazette again hobbled off with Bordeaux dealing Bruno Genesio’s side a 3-1 defeat, their first at home since moving into Parc OL in January.
France striker Lacazette, the French league’s leading scorer this season with six goals, will miss Lyon’s opening group stage match at home to Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday.
Paris Saint-Germain conceded an injury-time equaliser on Friday as they warmed up for their European clash next week against Arsenal with a disappointing 1-1 home draw with Saint-Etienne.
Unai Emery’s men looked set for all three points thanks to a second-half Lucas penalty, but Robert Beric popped up in the second minute of added-on time to eke out an unlikely point for the visitors.