PARIS, France, Jan 16 – Radamel Falcao scored an injury-time equaliser to snatch Monaco a 2-2 draw with a Mario Balotelli-inspired Nice on Tuesday, but Marseille leapfrogged the Ligue 1 champions into second place by beating Strasbourg.
Monaco took a first-half lead at the Stade Louis II through Adama Diakhaby, but Balotelli turned in an equaliser less than two minutes into the second period.
The enigmatic Italian completed his double in the 68th minute, but Falcao stabbed in on his return from injury in the second minute of added time.
“That’s Falcao. He’s a forward who takes chances, like Balotelli. That’s what great strikers do,” said Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim.
The point extended Nice’s unbeaten run to seven league games, while Monaco will still slip out of the three Champions League places if Lyon win at Guingamp on Wednesday.
Marseille’s third straight victory leaves them second, nine points adrift of runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain and one point clear of Monaco, while Nice stay sixth.
The away team were the better side early on without creating any clear-cut chances, with Balotelli curling a long-range free-kick wide and Pierre-Lees Melou firing straight at Danijel Subasic from the edge of the box.
But Monaco forged ahead against the run of play in the 33rd minute as Diakhaby took advantage of a stroke of luck to net his second goal in three games.
A hopeful ball forward ricocheted off Monaco winger Thomas Lemar and fell perfectly for Diakhaby to send the ball into the roof of the net, with Nice appeals for handball against Lemar waved away by the referee.
Nice continued to play the better football after the restart, though, and Balotelli, who also scored twice in a 4-0 thrashing in September’s reverse fixture, stretched to divert a low Allan Saint-Maximin cross in at the near post.
The former Manchester City and Inter Milan striker went agonisingly close to completing a turnaround, but couldn’t get enough contact onto another dangerous Saint-Maximin cross into the area.
The game continued to open up and Lemar, linked with a January move to either Liverpool or Arsenal, was denied by a brave block from Nice midfielder Jean-Michael Seri.
Balotelli did put Lucien Favre’s visitors ahead midway through the second half, as he powered forward before seeing a deflected effort loop over goalkeeper Subasic and into the net.
It was Balotelli’s 18th goal of the season, despite having missed much of the campaign through injury and suspension.
“It’s his first match since December. He was a bit behind following the short winter break,” said Nice coach Lucien Favre.
“He’s progressed slowly, it takes time. But he’s coming from a long, long way back.”
Falcao was a peripheral figure for the majority of the contest, but the Colombian was in the right place at the perfect time to tap in his 16th league goal this term after Stevan Jovetic’s shot was saved.
– Subs give Marseille victory –
Late goals from substitutes Clinton N’Jie and Dimitri Payet sealed a 2-0 home victory for Marseille over Strasbourg.
Valere Germain saw a 72nd-minute penalty saved by Strasbourg goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja, but N’Jie pounced to slam in with 11 minutes to play.
Payet finished off the victory for Rudi Garcia’s men with a brilliantly-taken goal late on.
It was only the 30-year-old’s third goal from 22 games this season in all competitions, but it arrived in style as his outrageous dummy left Oukidja flailing and set up a simple finish.
“We missed pace and speed in the first half, but we were able to get back in the second with character and the missed penalty galvanised us,” said Payet.
Elsewhere, Bordeaux slipped to a fifth defeat in six league games as they were beaten 2-0 by Caen.
PSG host Dijon on Wednesday, with Neymar set to return after missing Sunday’s win at Nantes with a rib injury.