Balotelli on target as Nice draws with Caen in French league

AP Photo/Claude Paris
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PARIS (AP) Mario Balotelli struck his 10th league goal of the season to lead the fightback as French title contender Nice drew at home with Caen 2-2 on Friday.

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With Nice trailing 2-0 with 20 minutes left, Balotelli ended a four-game goal drought with a close-range finish from defender Dante’s headed pass.

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Seven minutes later, substitute Anastasios Donis – on loan this season from Italian champion Juventus – netted the equalizer when his shot hit the right post and the left before rolling over the line.

Nice has been the surprise of the season and moved up to second place, one point above defending champion Paris Saint-Germain and two behind leader Monaco heading into this weekend’s games.

Coach Lucien Favre was delighted with the response from his players, but warned them to be more focused.

“We never give up, because we keep playing and we believe,” Favre said. “We sometimes forget how to play. You should attack but also defend.”

Striker Mickael Le Bihan missed a late chance to win the game when he swiveled and volleyed over.

Balotelli hit the target early into the game with a stinging half-volley from 25 meters out but was then quiet until his goal. By the end, he was strolling around and this prompted Favre to yell at him from the sidelines.

Caen hit the home side on the break when striker Ivan Santini jumped above Dante to firmly head in Vincent Bessat’s looping cross from the left for his 12th league goal.

Shortly after halftime, forward Yann Karamoh netted his sixth to make it 2-0.

Le Bihan galvanized Nice when he came off the bench in the 56th to replace midfielder Wylan Cyprien, who went off injured.

Cyprien has been one of Nice’s best players this season and his absence will be a blow.

“I’m not a doctor, but it’s the knee and that’s never very good news,” Favre said. “We need to see the (medical) results.”

Later Friday, improving Marseille hosted Angers.