Alves scores late winner as league leader PSG beats Nice 2-1

(AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File )


AP Sports Writer

PARIS (AP) Dani Alves took Paris Saint-Germain a step closer to the French title on Sunday, scoring his first league goal of the season with a late header as PSG won 2-1 at Nice.

The 34-year-old Brazil defender met midfielder Adrien Rabiot's astute curling pass over the defense and sent a powerful header into the bottom right corner in the 82nd minute.

PSG is 17 points clear of defending champion Monaco and almost certain to win its fifth title in six seasons. PSG has seven games left and Monaco has eight.

Nice beat PSG 3-1 in a dominant performance at the end of April last year, dealing a decisive blow to PSG's title hopes.

Mario Balotelli starred in that match, and he was involved in Nice's opening goal on Sunday in the 17th minute.

He expertly chested down a high ball to the feet of strike partner Alassane Plea near the halfway line, and Plea's pass sent Allan Saint-Maximin scampering though. Saint-Maximin finished coolly, clipping the ball past goalkeeper Alphonse Areola and into the bottom left corner.

Four minutes later, Angel Di Maria took advantage of slack defending to equalize. Given too much space on the left, he flicked the ball through Brazilian defender Dante's legs and then guided it in with the outside of his right foot. It was his ninth goal in 25 league games and he needs one more to match his career-best tally.

The match started at 1 p.m. local time (1200 GMT) to capture a prime-time television audience in Asia. This follows on from the opening of a French league football office in Beijing last year.

"The Spanish and the English did this before. We train in the mornings, so it shouldn't be a problem," said Nice coach Lucien Favre, referring to the early kickoff. "I hope it was a good advert (for Ligue 1). It was a good game."

Shanghai TV and Guangzhou TV showed the match live to a combined 40 million viewers, the LFP said. The match was also broadcast live in Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Saint-Maximin used his pace to get behind PSG's static defense again five minutes after the break, but Areola saved his shot with his legs.

Areola then kept out Balotelli's curler from the edge of the penalty area, after Saint-Maximin set him up. Balotelli was busy, smacking over a free kick with 20 minutes left and hitting the crossbar with a glancing header from a corner five minutes later.

At the other end, striker Kylian Mbappe wastefully headed over Di Maria's pass from the left in the 79th.

Nice is in eighth place, three points above Saint-Etienne in ninth.

Third-place Marseille plays fourth-place Lyon later Sunday.

Midtable Saint-Etienne beat Guingamp 2-0 at home to make it eight games unbeaten in the league.

Serbia center back Neven Subotic scored in the 29th minute from Slovenia striker Robert Beric's cross.

Winger Remy Cabella went past three players before scoring in the 79th.

Nantes remained in sixth place after drawing 1-1 at last-place Metz.

Nolan Roux's right knee put Metz ahead in the 12th minute, as he slid in to meet a corner for his 12th league goal of the season.

Midfielder Valentin Rongier equalized midway through the first half.

Claudio Ranieri's Nantes side is one point behind fifth-place Rennes, while Metz is nine points away from safety.

Updated March 18, 2018