Mario Balotelli-less Nice came from two goals down to draw 2-2 away to Rennes to go five points adrift of league leaders Monaco, while Saint-Etienne posed a serious threat to Lyon’s 4th position with a 4-0 home victory over bottom-ranked Lorient in the 25th round of Ligue 1 action on Sunday.
Italian striker Balotelli, who has tallied nine league goals so far for Nice, was absent from the 18-men squad due to a fever. Rennes raised hopes for their first win in nine matches thanks to first-half strikes from Morgan Amalfitano and Giovanni Sio, before Valentin Eysseric set up Anastasios Dosis to pull one back and scored on the counterattack himself in the second half.
However, nailing just two wins in their last seven matches, Nice, led the Ligue 1 table at the start of the year, now face a five-point gap between leaders Monaco and themselves. They also trail second-placed and defending champions Paris Saint-Germain by two points.
“It’s good to get one point, and psychologically important for our players to come back from 2-0 down to 2-2,” said Nice head coach Lucien Favre.
Nice still had a comfortable 13-point advantage over followers Lyon, while the latter is set to meet strong challenges from Saint-Etienne, who will face Manchester United on the road in the first-leg of the UEFA Europa League last 32 next week.
Loic Perrin and Jordan Veretout made it 2-0 after 20 minutes before Romain Hamouma and Jorginho extended the lead after the interval for Saint-Etienne, who was just one point behind Lyon in the contest for a UEFA Champions League berth next season.
Also on Sunday, Marseille lost 3-2 at Nantes and remained sixth with 36 points.
(INPUTS FROM XINHUA)