Evra scores rare goal as Marseille beats Nice 2-1
ABS-CBN Sports on May 08, 2017 09:55 AM
JEROME PUGMIRE, AP Sports Writer
PARIS (AP) — Veteran defender Patrice Evra scored a rare goal to help Marseille beat Nice 2-1 in the French league on Sunday, securing vital points in its quest for a place in next season's Europa League. The defeat also effectively ended Nice's hopes of finishing second.
Mario Balotelli equalized for Nice, which fell to only its third league defeat of the season and drifted six points behind second-placed Paris Saint-Germain with only two games remaining. PSG also has a much better goal difference.
Marseille, which is unbeaten in nine matches, moved one point above Bordeaux and into fifth place — which earns a Europa League spot. The two sides meet next week in Bordeaux, where Marseille has a miserable record.
"We hadn't beaten a team in the top three and now we've done it," Marseille striker Bafetimbi Gomis said. "Now we have a final coming up against Bordeaux and they will really go for it."
The 35-year-old Evra celebrated his first goal since joining the club from Italian champion Juventus in January with some energetic press-ups near the touchline.
After Nice carelessly gave away the ball on the edge of the penalty area, 19-year-old Maxime Lopez whipped in a quick cross that Evra met with a diving header near the back post in the 66th minute. It was only Evra's 13th goal in more than 500 career league games, with the first of those as a Nice player during the 2001-02 season.
"I have to thank Max because it was a great cross and I just threw myself at it," Evra said. "If we don't finish in the top five, I will have failed in my mission coming here. Today was a warmup for (Bordeaux) and we're not going there for a draw."
After Gomis put Marseille ahead against the run of play in the 21st, Balotelli equalized five minutes into the second half with a career-best 15th league goal of the season.
The 26-year-old Balotelli broke into the Inter Milan side as a 17-year-old, starred for Italy at the 2012 European Championship and helped Manchester City secure the Premier League title. But such a relatively low best tally — given his undoubted ability — underlines how he has fallen short of his early promise.
Balotelli fluffed a great chance to make it 2-2, smacking a shot over the crossbar from a good position with 10 minutes left.
Nice's midfield overwhelmed Marseille early on with its slick passing, touch and rapid movement. This created space for others to run into, with Portugal wingback Ricardo Pereira and Brazilian left back Dalbert Henrique both hitting the post during a fine 15-minute opening.
Gomis rose superbly to head in Dimitri Payet's corner for his 18th league goal of a successful season on loan from English Premier League side Swansea.
Balotelli joined on a free transfer after an unhappy spell with Liverpool, with many critics writing him off. This was his easiest goal of the campaign as he tapped in center back Paul Baysse's sliding cross from one meter out for 1-1.
On Saturday, Monaco took a big step toward the league title with a 3-0 win away to Nancy while PSG maintained an outside chance with a 5-0 home win against Bastia.
LYON 3, NANTES 2
With top scorer Alexandre Lacazette off the pitch, promising forward Maxwell Cornet showed what he could do with two goals.
The 20-year-old Cornet put Lyon 2-1 up in the 70th minute with a powerful header and volleyed in the winner 10 minutes later, shortly after captain Guillaume Gillet had equalized for Nantes.
The win all but guaranteed Lyon will finish in fourth place, but the result was harsh on Nantes.
Midfielder Valentin Rongier put Nantes 1-0 up in the 19th minute with a fine strike.
Lyon equalized in the 65th when Fekir won and converted a penalty after running at the heart of the defense.
Cornet nodded in from Memphis Depay's corner from the right to make it 2-1 and, following another corner, beat Dupe with a firm strike for the winner.
Lyon needs more goals on Thursday, when it hosts Ajax in the return leg of their Europa League semifinal and trailing 4-1.
RENNES 1, MONTPELLIER 0
When Montpellier defender half Daniel Congre slipped near the halfway line, Congolese striker Firmin Mubele took full advantage.
He whipped the ball from Congre's feet, sprinted down the left and then curled in a neat finish for an 80th-minute winner for 10th-placed Rennes.