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.
French giants AS Monaco look to be in real trouble this season.
Wahbi Khazri scored a pair as St. Etienne downed Monaco 2-0 at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Friday. The loss left Monaco in 18th place in the table with just six points through the first seven matches of the season.
The 27-year-old attacking midfielder, who signed from Sunderland this summer, first struck in the 41st minute as he was left completely unmarked in the box after splitting the defensive line, and Norwegian midfielder Ole Selnaes found him with a long cross. Khazri was chased by Andrea Raggi, but he was too late as the Tunisian international turned settled, turned, and shot past Diego Benaglio.
Khazri’s second came nine minutes after the halftime break, a frustratingly simple goal from Monaco’s perspective. Yann M’Villa pumped the ball forward to Khazri who settled the hard line drive and whipped it past Benaglio with little trouble for a 2-0 lead.
With the win, St. Etienne jumps all the way into second in the Ligue 1 table, six points back of leaders PSG. Still, the much bigger story is the troublesome start of Monaco, having sold Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar, and Fabinho among other young stars. New signing Aleksandr Golovin has yet to make a serious impact on his way back from an ankle injury, and the team is struggling to put up results, on a seven-match winless run following its opening day victory over Nantes.
Patrick Vieira has drastically turned around New York City FC during his short time with the MLS side but the young manager could be moving on sooner than expected.
[ MORE: Zlatan Ibrahimovic released by Manchester United ]
L’Equipe is reporting that French side St Etienne has shown significant interest in the former Les Bleus midfielder and that if Vieira wishes to accept the job it will be his for the taking.
Earlier this week, Vieira shot down any rumors regarding an exit from NYCFC, saying that he expected to “set out on a long-term project with New York City.”
The 40-year-old is in his second season with the Eastern Conference club, after having guided the Bronx side to the playoffs during his first year in charge at Yankee Stadium.
St Etienne finished eighth in France’s top flight last season, with former manager Christophe Galtier leaving the club at the conclusion of the 2016/17 season after an eight-year stint with the team.
According to the L’Equipe report, Red Bull Salzburg coach Oscar Garcia is also a strong candidate for the job at St Etienne.
Manchester United cruised past St. Etienne 3-0 at Old Trafford thanks to a hat-trick from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, bringing a sizeable lead into the second leg in France.
However, manager Jose Mourinho wasn’t pleased with the performance. Not at all.
“The first half we played so bad,” Mourinho said. “We managed to finish the first half winning 1-0 and we didn’t deserve [it].”
It’s a harsh assessment from Mourinho, but the boss is right. The Red Devils were forced to defend frantically on multiple occasions, with defender Eric Bailly providing a number of important blocks despite seeing himself beaten by visiting attackers. Nolan Roux missed a fabulous chance for the French side late, adding to United’s frustrations for letting him free.
One Manchester United player who had a fabulous match was Paul Pogba, who played well despite a poor finishing on the attacking end. Even so, Mourinho was caught screaming at Pogba for a back-pass towards the end of the first half instead of pushing play forward like the manager wanted.
Mourinho was even frustrated with the calm demeanor before the match, wishing his players would focus better.
On the other end, Ibrahimovic’s hat-trick wasn’t the prettiest he’s ever scored, getting goals on a deflected free-kick, a tap-in after great work by Marcus Rashford, and a soft penalty in the dying minutes.
Mourinho said after the match that he will start a strong side against Blackburn in the FA Cup on Sunday.
It wasn’t exactly how Zlatan Ibrahimovic – he with a flair for the dramatic – drew it up, but he’ll take it.
Zlatan scored a hat trick as Manchester United snuck by St. Etienne 3-0 in the first leg of their Europa League matchup at Old Trafford. The French side had a number of good chances in the first half, but couldn’t capitalize to draw level, and they faded in the second half as the English club pushed them.
The star Manchester United striker delivered a close-range free-kick that clipped a defender on its way through the wall and trickled into the back of the net for the opener just 15 minutes in. The initial foul was contentious, as Zlatan looked to seek out contact to earn the set-piece.
Zlatan picked out the second as well, but he didn’t have to do any of the hard work. Marcus Rashford burst down the left past numerous green shirts, and delivered a pinpoint low ball across the face of goal to an unmarked Ibrahimovic who simply tapped home the ball.
Paul Pogba was bright throughout the match, and he nearly had United’s second on the hour mark when he undressed Jordan Veretout with a brilliant spin move and ripped a shot that beat goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier but beat the post. Pogba again came close (and probably should have scored) as Daley Blind delivered an exquisite free-kick right to the head of Pogba at the far post, but he couldn’t get the header down, instead clanging the crossbar.
St. Etienne had its best chance in the 73rd minute as substitute Nolan Roux chipped a one-on-one opportunity with United goalkeeper Sergio Romero over the crossbar with nobody else to challenge the shot. Zlatan scored his second goal shortly after.
The match pitted Paul Pogba against his brother Florentin, but it was the Manchester United star who had the better of his brother on the day as Florentin was substituted off with 12 minutes to go due to injury. Zlatan’s final came late on as he was bundled over in the box softly, and he buried the chance from the spot to put the Red Devils through without a doubt.