Caen shuts down Mario Balotelli, scores early goal to hold off Nice in Ligue 1
Mario Balotelli, who had six goals in the last five games, struggled to find the back of the net against Caen. AP

IT seems Mario Balotelli's luck ran out.

Croatian striker Ivan Santini's penalty put Normandy side Caen ahead near halftime to defeat Nice, 1-0, on Sunday (Monday, Manila time).

Balotelli — who had six goals in five league games before the match — hit the post with a first-time shot in the 63rd.

Moments earlier, he set up strike partner Alassane Plea, whose curling effort went just over.

"There weren't many chances but sometimes two chances is enough, and we had them," Nice coach Lucien Favre said. "Caen was very tight at the back, with five defenders. It was very hard to get past them."

Favre refused to blame fatigue, despite his team playing in the Europa League on Thursday night. He said it was more a case of impatience.

"It's nothing to do with fatigue," he said. "You have to stay patient in games, otherwise you forget certain things, you become disorganized and that's not great."

Balotelli was booked late on for fouling Ronny Rodelin after the striker skillfully moved past him.

In another match, Saint-Etienne paid the price for having forward Oussama Tannane sent off in the first half as it ended up with a scoreless draw against Metz.

A win would have moved Saint-Etienne up to fifth place on goal difference, but the draw keeps it in ninth.

Tannane was ejected in the 36th after picking up two yellow cards in the space of a minute.

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