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2016/17 French Ligue 1, Regular Season
  • Mario Balotelli (32' PEN, 50')
  • Julio Tavares (37' PEN)
  • Cedric Varrault (88')

Mario Balotelli at the double as Nice hold onto top spot

A Mario Balotelli brace ensured Nice remained top of the pile in Ligue 1 with a 2-1 win against Dijon, who had Cedric Varrault sent off late on.

Both sides had warning shots fired at their respective goals early on as Balotelli flashed an effort wide of the post for the hosts before Lois Diony did well to hold onto the ball inside the Nice area before firing off-target.

There proved to be little in the way of goalmouth action at either end of the field as the half-hour mark approached but then the game sparked into life.

Dante's long ball found Alassane Plea in the area who was pulled back by Yunis Abdelhamid, leaving referee Benoit Millot with no option but to point at the penalty spot. Balotelli took charge from the penalty and, despite Baptiste Reynet's diving efforts, the Italian nestled the ball in the bottom left corner to hand Nice a first-half lead.

Their advantage lasted a matter of minutes though, as Millot was called upon again to make a crucial decision and, once again, he awarded a penalty after Arnaud Souquet raised his foot on Vincent Rufli.

Cape Verde international Julio Tavares was left with the responsibility of beating Yoan Cardinale from 12 yards and duly stepped up to fire straight down the centre and level up matters.

Nice did not have to wait long to reinstate their lead, though, when a seemingly offside Balotelli touched Souquet's delivery beyond Reynet from close range, much to the visitors' displeasure.

Not prepared to lie down, Dijon responded as Tavares forced Cardinale to turn his volley around the post before the same player could only head Rufli's delivery wide of the Nice goal.

The hosts almost made it three late on when Plea crashed an effort against Reynet's crossbar before any chance of a Dijon comeback disappeared when Varrault was shown a second yellow card in a matter of seconds for dissent.

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