Nice draws with Caen, loses ground in Ligue 1 title race

Nice forward Mario Balotelli. (Claude Paris/AP)

PARIS — Mario Balotelli struck his 10th league goal of the season to lead the fightback as French title contender Nice drew at home with Caen 2-2 on Friday.

With Nice trailing 2-0 with 20 minutes left, Balotelli ended a four-game goal drought with a close-range finish from defender Dante’s headed pass.

Seven minutes later, substitute Anastasios Donis — on loan this season from Italian champion Juventus — netted the equalizer when his shot hit the right post and the left before rolling over the line.

Nice has been the surprise of the season and moved up to second place, one point above defending champion Paris Saint-Germain and two behind leader Monaco heading into this weekend’s games.

Coach Lucien Favre was delighted with the response from his players, but warned them to be more focused.

"We never give up (but) we sometimes forget how to play," Favre said. "You should attack but also defend."

Striker Mickael Le Bihan missed a late chance to win the game when he swiveled and volleyed over.

Balotelli hit the target early with a stinging half-volley from 25 metres out but was then quiet until his goal. By the end, he was strolling around and this prompted Favre to yell at him from the sidelines.

Caen hit the home side on the break when striker Ivan Santini jumped above Dante to firmly head in Vincent Bessat’s looping cross from the left for his 12th league goal.

Shortly after halftime, forward Yann Karamoh netted to make it 2-0.

Le Bihan galvanized Nice when he came off the bench in the 56th to replace midfielder Wylan Cyprien, who went off injured.

Cyprien has been one of Nice’s best players this season and his absence will be a blow.

"I’m not a doctor, but it’s the knee and that’s never very good news," Favre said.

MARSEILLE 3, ANGERS 0

Winger Florian Thauvin scored twice to equal his career-best annual tally of 10.

He struggled in the English Premier League last season with Newcastle, but has scored several goals from outside the penalty area this season.

He slotted home with a low drive from 20 metres, following a quickly worked free kick with playmaker Dimitri Payet.

After fellow winger Remy Cabella made it 2-0 in the 20th, Thauvin tapped in from close range late on.

The win moved Marseille above Bordeaux and up to fifth place.

Bordeaux is away to Monaco on Saturday, while PSG travels to play last-place Lorient on Sunday.