Lyon beats Marseille to go 3rd; Balotelli scores for Nice
By JEROME PUGMIRE
Forwards Nabil Fekir and Mariano Diaz scored as Lyon beat Marseille 2-0 Sunday to end its rival's 12-game unbeaten run in the French league.
Fekir opened the scoring in the sixth minute with a 35-meter (yard) free kick that produced a handling error from goalkeeper Steve Mandanda as he fumbled his shot.
"I take entire responsibility for this defeat," Mandanda said. "I shouldn't be conceding this type of goal."
Marseille coach Rudi Garcia forgave his 'keeper for the mistake but urged players to make amends fast.
"We're disappointed and frustrated," Garcia said. "We have to beat Troyes on Wednesday."
Forward Maxwell Cornet set up Lyon's second in the 51st with a cross from the right emphatically headed home by Diaz.
Diaz took his season's tally to 13 league goals while Fekir has 12. They constantly threatened while Marseille's attack fizzled out. Marseille playmaker Dimitri Payet was again disappointing and the France international remains stuck on one league goal this season.
The win moved Lyon three points above Marseille and into third place, level with second-place Monaco with 38 points. Lyon trails the defending champion on goal difference. Runaway leader Paris Saint-Germain is nine points ahead of them.
Wednesday night's round of matches is the last before the annual winter break.
PSG won 4-1 at Rennes on Saturday. Monaco beat Saint-Etienne 4-0 on Friday.
Mario Balotelli scored a first-half winner as resurgent Nice beat Bordeaux 1-0 at home to move up to sixth place.
Nice was in the relegation zone three weeks ago after a 5-0 home loss to Lyon. But four straight wins have lifted coach Lucien Favre's side away from trouble.
Bordeaux made a bright start to the campaign, climbing up to third in late September. But now Bordeaux is going the opposite way and has dropped to 15th place.
Balotelli has played his part in Nice's mini-revival.
The Italian striker volleyed Nice ahead from close range in the 36th minute after midfielder Pierre Lees-Melou's header across goal fell kindly to him.
It was his 10th league goal in only 13 games so far. Last season, Balotelli netted 15 in 23 after joining on a free transfer from Premier League team Liverpool.
Italian coach Claudio Ranieri is getting increasingly agitated this season.
A 1-0 home win against Angers kept his Nantes side in fifth place, although that was not enough to keep him calm.
Ranieri, who guided Leicester to the Premier League title against all odds in 2015-16, was frustrated with the refereeing in France once again.
He was sent to the stands during the second half for putting his hands on the fourth official's head, claiming he only wanted to point his attention to a foul. Ranieri's rash gesture prompted referee Karim Abed to sprint over and order him away.
"The punishment was justified because I touched the fourth official," Ranieri said. "I'm sorry, I apologize. It's the first time I've touched a referee (official)."
Ranieri recently confronted a referee in the tunnel during one game and argued with him at length.
Emiliano Sala's first-half penalty was the difference between the sides in a gritty contest.
The striker struck the 24th-minute spot-kick powerfully into the left corner for his sixth league goal of the season.
Nantes held on despite having striker Yacine Bammou sent off midway through the second half, with Ranieri looking on from his new seat.
Updated December 17, 2017