Mario Balotelli delivered a moment of magic in Ligue 1 on Sunday afternoon to snatch a late winner for Nice against FC Lorient - before getting sent off in stoppage time.
The 86th-minute goal handed Nice a 2-1 win and took the side back to the top of France’s top division, above Paris Saint-Germain.
Balotelli has found his form in France, having scored five goals in three appearances for the Ligue 1 side, but Nice will now be without the explosive Italian for their next game against Lyon.
The former Liverpool striker’s red card was for two yellows, both picked up within the space of seven minutes.
After removing his shirt in celebration following his dramatic winner, Balotelli was understandably shown yellow.
But the circumstances surrounding his dismissal in stoppage time left fans scratching their heads. In an apparent ‘coming-together’ with Lorient’s Steven Moreira, Balotelli was booked for another yellow but replays suggested that Moreira had instigated the altercation.
Either way, referee Olivier Thual stuck to his decision and sent Nice’s forward packing. Fortunately for him, his side held out for the win to pick up all three points.
Nice manager Lucien Favre told the club’s official website after the game: "Honestly, from the dugout, I did not understand at all what happened.
"It seems Mario did nothing, no bad gesture. I only saw it again on a small screen. I'll have to look at it calmly and see what happened, if something did happen."
Despite the dismissal, Favre was full of praise for the Italian.
"Mario has an incredible ability. He's good with his right foot, and his head," he said. "There's work to do with his left. You have to be blind not to see that he's very good in front of goal. He has a very good attitude towards his teammates and all the staff.
"He's healthy in his concentration and how he helps the whole team. He does overtime in training, working in front of goal. For the moment, we're taking advantage of his finishing skills. The more we go into the season, the more we'll be demanding of him about his runs, his tracking back."
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