Balotelli misses penalty but French leader Nice beats Lyon
ABS-CBN Sports on Oct 15, 2016 11:18 AM
Nice's forward Mario Balotelli, left, challenges for the ball with Lyon's French midfielder Maxime Gonalons, during the League One soccer match between Nice and Lyon, in Nice stadium, southeastern France, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
JEROME PUGMIRE, AP Sports Writer
PARIS (AP) — Mario Balotelli missed a late penalty for French league leader Nice, shortly after appearing to aim a kiss at the Lyon bench in a dominant 2-0 win on Friday night.
The win moved Nice four points clear of Monaco, which lost 3-1 at Toulouse despite scoring first, and 10 clear of Lyon.
Balotelli's athleticism and physical presence caused problems for Lyon throughout, even if his scoring touch deserted him.
The Italian striker joined after two fruitless seasons with Liverpool and AC Milan, with many observers writing him off as a spent force.
But the 26-year-old Balotelli confounded critics with five league goals in his first three league games, and almost added another from the spot on Friday after being fouled by defender Jordy Gaspar.
The way he won the penalty was brilliant, receiving a pass from Younes Belhanda, sharply cutting inside the area with a superb first touch and drawing a foul from the inexperienced Gaspar, who is 19 years old.
Balotelli has a reputation as an excellent penalty taker but was too casual, striding up to the ball and pausing before striking a shot to the left that Portuguese goalkeeper Anthony Lopes palmed away.
Just minutes before that, Balotelli appeared to aim a kiss at Lyon's bench after midfielder Jean Michael Seri's 76th-minute goal made it 2-0.
Balotelli seems perfectly settled on the French Riviera after some troublesome years.
He got a rousing ovation when he was substituted with five minutes remaining and then playfully threw a water bottle at Nice goalie Yoan Cardinale as the players applauded the fans.
Center half Paul Baysse put Nice ahead in the fifth minute with an excellent swivel finish and was involved in an incident that led to Lyon forward Nabil Fekir getting sent off in the 28th.
Fekir was chasing a ball when he kicked the back of Baysse's legs and walked on his arm when he fell to the ground, although it seemed unclear if that act was deliberate.
"I don't know if he did it on purpose," Baysse said. "All I know is that he trod on my arm — and it hurts."
Although Balotelli did not score, it made little difference to Nice's fans — who had made their point to the president of bitter rival Lyon.
They unfurled a banner with a message addressed to president Jean-Michel Aulas, who was in discussions to sign Balotelli before he choose Nice.
"Aulas: to play with Balotelli you must buy FIFA 17," the message read, referring to the popular video game.
TOULOUSE 3, MONACO 1
Toulouse striker Martin Braithwaite should contact his bank manager, because it is going to be an expensive season at this rate.
In August, the Denmark forward pledged to donate 1,000 Euros ($1,100) to charity for every league goal he scores this season.
He has six so far after scoring two late goals on Friday, and is well on course to shatter his career-best 11 from last season.
Monaco led through striker Valere Germain's looping header in the fourth minute.
After midfielder Oscar Trejo equalized when he headed in Braithwaite's pass midway through the second half, Braithwaite pounced in the 83rd and 87th to move Toulouse up to third place.
It is a remarkable turnaround for Toulouse, which avoided relegation to the second tier on the final day of last season but has been the other surprise package so far, beating defending champion Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 last month.