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Balotelli scores scissor-kick goal, takes selfie as Marseille nets huge win (video)

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It’s never boring with Mario Balotelli.

The Italian lightning rod scored an acrobatic scissor kick to put Marseille 1-0 up on St. Etienne in a huge Ligue 1 match with Champions League implications, and his celebration was deserving of such a spectacular goal.

Flaurin Thauvin’s delivered a low line-drive corner, and Balotelli leg-whipped the ball powerfully into the back of the net from close range. He decided it was time to take a selfie video, and snagged a phone from a cameraman behind the advertising boards to document the big moment. He was all smiles as his teammates surrounded him in celebration.

The game is an enormous match in Ligue 1, with St. Etienne currently sitting in fourth, the final Champions League place. Marseille is in sixth just two points behind, and a win would allow them to snatch fourth place, jumping both St. Etienne and Stade Reims.

The goal for Balotelli is the third in his last four matches for Marseille after returning from a one-match absence. He’s scored four goals for the club since joining in January, helping them to surge up the table from seventh now to fourth pending the outcome of today’s game, with Marseille now 2-0 up at halftime with Florian Thauvin bagging a penalty before the break.

Balotelli scores again for new club Marseille

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Mario Balotelli sure does love joining a new club.

Balotelli scored in just his second professional match with Inter in 2008. He scored a winner in his first Manchester City appearance in 2010 in Europa League play and bagged a brace in his second Premier League start. He scored seven goals in his first six league matches with AC Milan in 2013. He scored five goals in his first three Ligue 1 appearances for Nice. And now, after signing for Olympique Marseille in the winter transfer window, he is on a tear again.

Despite failing to find the back of the net the entire first half of the season as his Nice career came to a close, in four appearances for Marseille since joining in late January, Balotelli has scored three goals, his latest coming on Saturday as Marseille topped Amiens 2-0 to move above St. Etienne into fourth in the Ligue 1 table.

The 30-year-old Italian is clearly loving life at the Stade Velodrome, as he poked fun at his own teammate with his goal celebration. Florian Thauvin had scored the opener 19 minutes in, but pulled up lame after striking his shot, muting the celebration somewhat. He managed to stay in the game, and when Balotelli scored just six minutes later, he began to mock Thauvin’s injury by pretending his own hamstring was hurt. Thauvin was loving the joke, even joining in to poke fun at himself.

While it’s been an up and down season for Marseille as they fight for their Champions League lives, the club has won three in a row ahead of absolutely critical matches against Stade Rennais and St. Etienne on the horizon. The club then hosts Nice, Balotelli’s old club, where he enjoyed a fabulous start to his time there which served as a sort of revival for the Italian after struggles at Liverpool and AC Milan.

It remains to be seen if Balotelli can enjoy an extended stay at Marseille and prolong his success or if it is just a flash in the pan, but he’s obviously become an important figure in the moment, and Balotelli has always been about the moment.

Henry’s Monaco draws 1-1 with Vieira’s Nice in French league

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PARIS (AP) Old friends Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira had to split the points as Monaco drew 1-1 with French Riviera rival Nice on Wednesday in a scrappy match featuring three video reviews.

Winger Allan Saint-Maximin put Nice ahead in the 30th minute and 17-year-old defender Benoit Badiashile equalized shortly after halftime, becoming the youngest scorer in the French top flight this season. Badiashile’s header from a corner was deemed to have crossed the line by the use of goal-line technology.

[MORE: Ligue 1 scores, schedule]

Henry and Vieira are in their first seasons coaching in France, but they go way back and hugged warmly before kickoff.

Living next to each other in London, they blossomed with Arsenal and were part of the famed “Invincibles” side which went a whole season unbeaten in the Premier League. The Frenchmen also won the 1998 World Cup and the European Championship in 2000, as well as playing together in the 2006 World Cup final.

Having started their illustrious careers as teenagers on the French Riviera – Henry with Monaco and Vieira with Cannes – they have come full circle as coaches.

Monaco had chances through Aleksandr Golovin and Rony Lopes, only for Nice to strike against the run of play following a sloppy mistake from Youssef Ait Bennasser. After he gave the ball away in midfield, Saint-Maximin took it off him easily and shrugged off defender Jemerson before shooting confidently past goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.

The goal was awarded before being checked and confirmed by referee Benoit Bastien using VAR. Moments before the interval, he consulted VAR again to send off Nice striker Ihsan Sacko for a late challenge on defender Benjamin Heinrichs.

“There’s a lot of frustration and questions about the decisions. The red card is very harsh,” Vieira said. “It wasn’t a dangerous action and it had a negative impact on us.”

Bastien used VAR for the third time to award a penalty in the 75th, ruling that Badiashile impeded right back Youcef Atal when images suggested Atal initiated contact with Badiashile before tumbling down.

Benaglio guessed correctly to keep out Saint-Maximim’s spot kick. Monaco almost won it near the end when Radamel Falcao hit the post with a curling effort.

“A point isn’t enough for us, but we could have been sat here talking about a defeat,” Henry said. “I have no opinion about the VAR, those are their decisions. Diego saved the penalty – so much the better for us.”

Monaco has not won at home this season and is 19th – only one point ahead of last-place Guingamp, which beat Rennes 2-1 at home.

OTHER MATCHES

VAR also played a key role elsewhere as Saint-Etienne equalized with a penalty in a 2-1 home win against Marseille.

Referee Antony Gautier awarded the penalty in the 56th after goalkeeper Steve Mandanda upended forward Wahbi Khazri.

Gautier then changed his mind after the linesman signaled Khazri was offside when receiving the pass, but further confusion ensued as he then consulted VAR and re-awarded the penalty, which was confidently tucked away by Khazri.

There was no debating Khazri’s late winner, struck ferociously from 20 meters past Mandanda. It was his 12th league goal of the season and leapfrogged Saint-Etienne over Lyon into third place ahead of their local derby on Sunday.

Netherlands midfielder Kevin Strootman headed Marseille ahead early on from Florian Thauvin‘s excellent cross. The defeat increases the pressure on ninth-place Marseille and its coach Rudi Garcia after a string of poor performances have left fans disgruntled and angry.

In other matches, forwards Moussa Dembele and Nabil Fekir netted late on as Lyon rallied to draw 2-2 at Toulouse.

Nimes moved into 11th spot after winning 1-0 at home to Nantes.

Mbappe sparks rally in France’s draw with Iceland

AP Photo/David Vincent
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GUINGAMP, France (AP) Kylian Mbappe saved world champion France’s blushes by creating one goal and scoring a late equalizer in the space of five minutes to salvage a 2-2 draw against Iceland in a friendly on Thursday.

Iceland was 2-0 up with five minutes left at the Roudourou stadium in Brittany and looked set to hand France its first loss since winning the World Cup in July.

But Mbappe, who went on as a substitute for the last half an hour, was the home team’s savior.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward helped to pull a goal back when he fired in from a tight angle and the ball took a deflection off Holmar Eyjolfsson to go in for an own goal in the 85th minute.

Mbappe then levelled with a penalty awarded for handball five minutes later.

“We reacted well after a bad start against a well organized team,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “It’s good for Kylian, he brought his speed to us.”

Deschamps rested several regulars to keep them fit ahead of next week’s UEFA Nations League against Germany at the Stade de France.

Without Blaise Matuidi and N'Golo Kante, France were lacking in midfield, while Olivier Giroud was subdued up front.

Mbappe was meant to start the game but a minor thigh injury prompted Deschamps to leave him on the bench, allowing Giroud to partner Antoine Griezmann.

France lacked a cutting edge in the first half despite monopolizing possession.

Unmarked on the edge of the area, Paul Pogba fluffed a shot in the 17th minute. Griezmann also headed a cross from Lucas Digne just wide and Florian Thauvin fired a shot over from Ousmane Dembele’s precise pass.

France was made to pay when Presnel Kimpembe was dispossessed near the corner flag by Alfred Finnbogason and went down holding his ankle.

The Iceland forward carried on and sent a low cross to Birkir Bjarnasson, who beat keeper Hugo Lloris with a low shot to claim his 10th international goal in the 31st minute.

France should have gone two down but Lloris made a superb triple stop in the 37th minute.

The hosts pushed hard for an equalizer and almost got it in the 54th minute when Griezmann forced keeper Runar Runarsson to stretch and save a header that looked bound for the top corner.

France was then caught cold from a corner in the 58th as Kari Arnason lost his marker at the near post and doubled Iceland’s lead with a looping header that went in off the bar.

Mbappe had the last word, though, setting up the first France strike before bagging his 10th goal in 25 internationals.

Ligue 1: Neymar bloodied but scores twice as PSG rout Nice

AP Photo/Claude Paris
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PARIS (AP) Neymar took a whack to the face, played on with cotton tissue in his bloodied mouth, and grabbed his second goal as Paris Saint-Germain won at Nice 3-0 in the French league on Saturday.

[ SERIE A: Cristiano Ronaldo sets up Juve’s comeback win over Napoli ]

The Brazil forward was caught by Wylan Cyprien’s flailing arm as they contested the ball near the hour mark of an otherwise one-sided contest.

Cyprien was sent off for a second yellow card, and Neymar sat down for a while and had a little blood wiped from his mouth with a sponge. He got up and carried on, playing for several minutes as he ran around with the makeshift plaster device protruding from his mouth.

Neymar had already done damage of his own to Nice, expertly curling PSG in front midway through the first half from the edge of the penalty area. The ball fizzed past goalkeeper Walter Benitez before he could react and lodged in the bottom right corner.

That was enough for league leader PSG’s eighth straight win.

France star Kylian Mbappe returned from a three-game ban and was desperate to score for PSG, but too much so. He fluffed a good chance right at the start of the second half by taking too many touches. After his shot was blocked near the line, attacking midfielder Christopher Nkunku stroked in the rebound to make it 2-0.

[ LA LIGA: Barcelona slip up again, helped by Madrid derby draw ]

PSG has struggled in the past at Nice, which always reserves a vitriolic welcome, but should have scored several more. When Neymar eventually got the third goal, it was in the second minute of injury time as Mbappe set him up for an easy tap-in.

With seven goals, Neymar is one ahead of Marseille winger Florian Thauvin at the top of the scoring chart.

There seems no stopping PSG in the French league: It has 27 goals and counting. PSG is the second French side to win its first eight games after Lille in 1936, and victory at home to Lyon next weekend will be a record.