PARIS — Mario Balotelli won’t be blamed for being sent off this time.

The Italian striker, as well known for his antics off and on the pitch as he is for his beautiful goals, scored a stunning late winner for Nice in its 2-1 defeat of Lorient in the French league on Sunday.

“Super Mario” was then sent off for a second yellow card in a decision that looked harsh.

Nice returned to the top of the standings, one point above its Riviera rival Monaco.

Balotelli, who received his first booking after taking off his jersey when he celebrated his goal in the 86th minute, was sanctioned again in stoppage time after an altercation with defender Steven Moreira, who appeared to have started the scuffle.

Balotelli had dribbled past Moreira before sending a powerful drive from the edge of the box into the top right corner for his sixth goal in five appearances for the French leaders.

Balotelli has made a strong start to his career in France since joining this summer after disappointing stints with Liverpool and AC Milan. He has already scored five goals in three league games and added one to his tally midweek in the Europa League, but was overlooked for a recall to the Italy squad this week.

Ricardo Pereira had put the hosts in front in the 11th minute before Benjamin Moukandjo leveled with a right-footed shot from Mohamed Mara’s pass.


Substitute Pierrick Capelle scored deep in stoppage time to deny Marseille a first away win.

Capelle netted his maiden goal this season from close range in the last second of the game after Marseille defender Doria diverted the ball into his path.

Both teams struggled to create chances and relied on long-range shots. Florian Thauvin had put the visitors in front in the 72nd minute with a deflected shot that lobbed goalkeeper Denis Petric.

On loan from Newcastle, Thauvin has scored three goals in eight matches this season.

Marseille, which lags 11 points behind leader Nice, equaled Sochaux’s record of 2,368 matches played in the top flight.


Lyon ended bitter rival Saint-Etienne’s six-game unbeaten run in the league with a 2-0 win in a pulsating Rhone derby.

Saint-Etienne dominated the early stages but missed three good chances before Lyon’s Sergi Darder broke the deadlock in the 41st minute with a fine header at the far post from Nabil Fekir’s assist.

Saint-Etienne’s Kevin Monnet-Paquet hit the post with a curled effort soon after the interval before Vincent Pajot forced a brilliant save from Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes.

Rachid Ghezzal sealed Lyon’s win in the 89th with a low shot from the edge of the box.

Lyon moved into fifth place, one point above Saint-Etienne.