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Balotelli off as Monaco close Ligue 1 gap on Nice

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Nice’s forward Mario Balotelli shoots the ball during the French L1 football match between Bordeaux and Nice on December 21, 2016, at the Matmut Atlantique stadium in Bordeaux, southwestern France © AFP / NICOLAS TUCAT

Paris, France, Dec 22 – Mario Balotelli and Younes Belhanda were sent off in the dying seconds as Ligue 1 leaders Nice stumbled into the winter break with a 0-0 draw at Bordeaux, allowing Monaco to trim the gap at the top to two points.

Paris Saint-Germain eased the pressure on coach Unai Emery by beating Lorient 5-0.

Bordeaux had suffered three successive defeats — conceding eight goals in their last two outings — and a frustrating evening for Nice ended disastrously with Balotelli and Belhanda dismissed for off-the-ball incidents.

Lucien Favre’s side will now start 2017 without two key players after the pair were shown straight red cards in the closing stages.

“I look foward to seeing the images. We’ll see if it’s a foul,” said Favre, after Balotelli was given his marching orders for lashing out at Bordeaux defender Igor Lewczuk.

Caen’s French forward Herve Bazile (C) celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between Monaco (ASM) and Caen (SMC) on December 21, 2016 at the Louis II Stadium in Monaco © AFP / VALERY HACHE

“In the end, I was disappointed after these two red cards because that’s going to be a few matches (suspension).”

Radamel Falcao scored a penalty in a 2-1 win over Caen as Monaco rebounded from their defeat at home to Lyon last weekend.

The Colombian striker won and converted a spot-kick shortly after half time for his 11th goal of the season before Tiemoue Bakayoko scored for the second game running at the Stade Louis II.

Herve Bazile grabbed a consolation for Caen in stoppage time.

“We’re very happy with what we’ve done during the first part of the season,” said Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim.

“It’s the 10th match in a row where we’ve been playing every three days. There was a bit of tiredness and fatigue, but we have 42 points. It’s only the second time in club history (at the halfway stage).”

– Cavani increases tally –

Edinson Cavani struck his league-best 18th goal this term as reigning champions PSG snapped a three-game winless run with a five-goal demolition of bottom side Lorient at the Parc des Princes.

Paris Saint-Germain’s forward Edinson Cavani kicks a penalty and scores during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain and Lorient at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on December 21, 2016 © AFP / MIGUEL MEDINA

Emery had challenged his players to finish 2016 on a high after a series of disappointing results and Belgium international Thomas Meunier opened the scoring with a superb 25th-minute lob.

Lorient centre-back Zargo Toure turned a cross from Lucas into his own net for PSG’s second just before the break, and captain Thiago Silva headed in a third minutes after the restart.

Cavani tucked away a penalty after he was brought down in the area, with Brazilian international Lucas racing onto a fine Marco Verratti pass to seal a resounding victory.

“It was important to win today,” said Emery, with PSG heading into the break trailing Nice by five points as they chase a fifth consecutive French title.

“We’ve dropped some important points along the way. We must lose fewer of them in the future. During the second half of the season we’re going to improve to reduce the gap.”

Lyon claimed their fourth win in a row with France internationals Alexandre Lacazette and Nabil Fekir on target in a 2-0 triumph over Angers.

Bafetimbi Gomis scored his 10th goal of the campaign to help Rudi Garcia’s Marseille beat Bastia 2-1 and extend their winning run.

Marseille looked destined to leave Corsica with just a point after Alexander Djiku levelled on 83 minutes, but on-loan Tottenham Hotspur forward Clinton Njie swept home an injury-time winner.

Portugal striker Eder rescued a point for Lille with superbly-taken late volley in a 1-1 draw with Rennes, while Nantes continued their resurgence under former Portuguese international Sergio Conceicao by beating Montpellier 1-0 to climb out of the relegation places.

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