Football: Alves sends PSG 17 points clear by beating Nice after Balotelli says 'money can't buy a team'

Paris Saint-Germain defender Dani Alves celebrates after scoring a header during the Ligue 1 match against Nice at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on March 18, 2018.
Paris Saint-Germain defender Dani Alves celebrates after scoring a header during the Ligue 1 match against Nice at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on March 18, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (REUTERS, AFP) - Dani Alves struck late to give Paris St-Germain a 2-1 victory at Nice on Sunday (March 18), as they extended their Ligue 1 lead to a massive 17 points.

The kick-off was brought forward to 1200GMT (8pm Singapore time) to ensure maximum exposure in China and Asia and PSG, who now have 83 points from 31 games, were keen to impress.

They failed to do so in a lacklustre performance but Alves' 82nd-minute header was enough for them to edge closer to a seventh French title.

Nice, who hit the woodwork through Mario Balotelli in the second half, opened the scoring through Allan Saint-Maximin, whose early goal was quickly cancelled out by Angel di Maria.

Saint-Maximin beat PSG keeper Alphonse Areola from close range after being perfectly set up by Alassane Plea on 17 minutes.

That spurred PSG into action and the visitors equalised just four minutes later thanks to the Argentinian, who found the back of the net with a left-footed effort.

Balotelli went close to putting Nice ahead again eight minutes before the break, but his curled effort shaved the far post.

PSG had a chance on the hour, but Nice keeper Walter Benitez pulled off a superb save to tip Alves' bicycle kick over the bar.

Balotelli forced Areola into another brilliant save two minutes later as Nice piled on the pressure.

The Italian hit the woodwork with 15 minutes left with a header, while the visitors had another chance four minutes later when Kylian Mbappe's header went just over.

Eight minutes from time, however, Alves met Adrien Rabiot's cross to send his header past Benitez.

Before the match, Balotelli had trolled PSG on French television, saying: "Money allows you to buy great players but not a team."

He mocked PSG for their elimination by Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League.

"It's always shameful to see a big team like PSG go out of the Champions League, but Real were better," the Italian striker said. "Money doesn't make a team," he added.

Asked what he expected later in the game, Balotelli said: "To be honest I haven't watched PSG this season, apart from their last match against Real Madrid. They deserved to lose."

Balotelli, who is expected to leave Nice at the end of the season, said that while he was looking forward to the game, but was not awed by PSG.

"I love the feel of this sort of match, even though I think we should have this atmosphere every weekend and not just against PSG," he said.

"Paris, is like Guingamp, a team in Ligue 1. I do not care that is is PSG. Sure, they are a big team because they have big players, but so do Lyon and Marseille. I don't make a distinction."

He said Neymar's absence weakened PSG. "Paris without Neymar, they aren't the same team. He's one of the three best players in the world."

Balotelli also compared Edinson Cavani, who has become PSG's all-time top scorer in Ligue 1, unfavourably with the man the Uruguayan overtook, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

"With all the respect I have for Cavani, who is a top player, Zlatan is in another dimension," said the Italian, who shares an agent, Mino Raiola, with Ibra.

Later on Sunday, third-placed Marseille will hope stay in the hunt for second when they host fourth-placed Lyon.