PSG title hopes shattered as Nice and Balotelli rattle their superiority

By Samindra Kunti

May 1 – OGC Nice have all but ended Paris Saint-Germain’s title aspirations in Ligue 1, winning an ill-tempered game 3-1. Thiago Motta and Angel Di Maria were both send off. PSG trail Monaco by three points with three match days left. PSG have been Ligue 1 champions for the past four seasons.

‘Vaincre à tout prix’ headlined French sports daily L’Equipe before PSG’s crunch game with third-placed Nice on Sunday. The newspaper printed a large photo of Thiago Silva battling with Mario Balotelli on their cover. On Saturday league leaders Monaco had defeated Toulouse 3-1.

As it was, Balotelli proved to be a scourge for the Parisians. He wound his opponents up, in particular Edison Cavani, and scored the opening goal with a fine strike from outside the box. Thiago Silva’s last ditch block came too late to prevent the ball from going in.

The Italian’s opening strike had the effect of derailing PSG. The French champions lost their composure and Ricardo Pereira doubled Nice’s lead with a curling goal into the top corner after the restart.

With 30 minutes remaining Brazilian defender Marquinhos flicked a header in as Unai Emery’s team regrouped, but they failed to impose their game. Cavani remained peripheral up front, Julian Draxler offered little and PSG’s midfield lacked creativity and incisiveness to penetrate Nice’s defenses.

Motta and Di Maria then lost the plot as they were both sent off before Anastasios Donis sealed the victory for the hosts. The Italian veteran Motta was dismissed for an incident in Nice’s penalty box, while Di Maria recklessly scythed down Arnaud Souquet.

After the final whistle PSG’s chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi looked baffled. With a three-point cushion and a game in hand Monaco, on 83 points, can end PSG’s hegemony over Le Championnat. Three match days remain. The team from the principality will also play Juventus in this week’s first leg semi-finals of the Champions League.

“We now have to look ahead and win our last three matches because finishing third, it would be catastrophic for us,” said PSG captain Silva. “Mathematically, it’s not over but it’s almost impossible. We must win our last three matches and especially the final of the Coupe de France.”

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