Balotelli’s return helps Vieira’s Nice to win 1-0 at Lyon
PARIS (AP) — Mario Balotelli helped coach Patrick Vieira to his first success in the French league as Nice won at Lyon 1-0 on Friday.
Although Balotelli did not score the Italy striker was a constant threat having missed the first three games of the season through suspension. Nice did not win any of those, picking up only a draw as Vieira — a dominant midfielder with Arsenal, Juventus and France during his playing career — got off to a difficult start.
Vieira was also indebted to recalled goalkeeper Walter Benitez, who made a several fine saves after winger Allan Saint-Maximin gave Nice a 51st-minute lead with a deflected strike inside the left of the penalty area.
Moments earlier, Saint-Maximin hit the crossbar after latching onto a brilliant first-time pass from Balotelli near the halfway line and sprinting through.
Balotelli turned down a summer move to Marseille, and credited Vieira with persuading him to stay. Balotelli worked hard but picked up a yellow card near the end of the first half, arguing with the referee over the distance of Nice’s defensive wall on a Lyon free kick.
Television cameras caught Balotelli ranting in the tunnel coming out for the second half, using an expletive as he vented frustration talking to teammate Dante.
Ten minutes after Saint-Maximin’s goal, Lyon’s two best forwards botched the equalizer.
Dutchman Memphis Depay fell over trying to score into an empty net, and Frenchman Nabil Fekir smacked the loose ball against the post.