Mario Balotelli scored the winning penalty and got sent off late on as Nice secured a much-needed 1-0 win against Dijon in the French league on Sunday. It was the Italian striker’s sixth goal in eight league games and moved Nice up to 15th place.
Balotelli sent goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet the wrong way from the penalty spot in the 40th minute. He was shown a straight red with one minute left for a tackle from behind, the third time he has been sent off in France since joining last season from Liverpool.
It appeared a harsh decision. Balotelli made a tackle from behind but there appeared little malice in the challenge. He stayed on the field to protest referee Olivier Thual’s decision.
“He had no intention to cause injury, I’m sure of that,” Nice coach Lucien Favre said. Nice, which finished third last season, had lost its last four league games and seven times overall to drift near the relegation zone.
“It’s going to be tough for us until Christmas,” Favre said. “We just don’t have the spark to trouble teams.”
Marseille was at home to Caen and Lyon travelled to local rival Saint-Etienne later Sunday.
Marseille suspended defender Patrice Evra on Friday after the left back aimed a kick at the head of a Marseille supporter during a Europa League match in Portugal.
Before Sunday’s game against Caen, home fans at Stade Velodrome displayed banners making it clear to Evra that he is longer welcome at the club.
“This Game Is Over,” read one in English, mocking Evra’s regular posts on social media where the player films himself talking about football and says “I love this game.”
Another banner, in French, read: “Love for the jersey. Respect for supporters. Professionalism. Is that too much to ask?”
League leader PSG romped to a 5-0 win at Angers and second-place Monaco won 6-0 at home to Guingamp on Saturday.