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Nice fight back but title hopes fade

Associated Press 12/02/2017

With their two best strikers off the field, Nice hit back from 2-0 down with second-half goals to force a 2-2 draw at Rennes.

Nice was already without star striker Mario Balotelli, who was rested for the game because of a fever, and coach Lucien Favre faced another reshuffle when top scorer Alassane Plea had to go off close to halftime on Sunday.

Nice were already trailing to early goals from winger Morgan Amalfitano and striker Giovanni Sio at that point but Greek forward Anastasios Donis, on loan from Juventus, pulled one back in the 59th minute with his first goal for the club after being set up by attacking midfielder Valentin Eysseric.

Then, with 10 minutes left, Eysseric equalised when he ran onto a long pass from midfielder Jean Michael Seri and tucked the ball past goalkeeper Benoit Costil.

The draw leaves Nice two points behind second-placed Paris Saint-Germain and five adrift of leaders Monaco. But Nice remain in the box seat to finish in the top three and earn a place in the qualifying round of next season's Champions League.

Favre said Rennes put his players under pressure early on by closing down so well but was proud to see his players fighting back strongly.

"I think it's a good point to take. They squeezed us like lemons," he said. "We told each other at halftime that it's never over at 2-0 down. We came back and that's very good, but we can't start too many games like we did today."

Elsewhere, Saint-Etienne warmed up perfectly for their trip to play Manchester United in the Europa League on Thursday.

Centre-back Loic Perrin and midfielder Jordan Veretout made it 2-0 after 20 minutes, with winger Romain Hamouma and striker Jorginho scoring after the break.

The win moved Saint-Etienne to within one point of fourth-placed Lyon in the race for a Europa League spot next season, although Lyon have played one game less. Lorient remain at the foot of the table.

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