Napoli knocks out Nice with distracted Balotelli arguing on touchline

Napoli entered the Champions League group stage easily thanks to two 2-0 wins over two legs against Nice, and a distracted Mario Balotelli.

Italian forward Balotelli, who also missed the the first leg through injury, was sluggish, off the pace and never threatened Napoli.

However, several minutes after the interval following a goalless first half, the player went to the touchline and argued with the fourth official over the case of a bracelet that had to be covered with a bandage.

Napoli took full advantage of the player’s absence on the pitch to grab their opening goal; whilst Balotelli was arguing, Marek Hamsik crossed from the left and Jose Callejon, unmarked at the far post, scored easily.

Lorenzo Insigne then wrapped things up in the 89th minute for a 4-0 aggregate score, collecting Faouzi Ghoulam’s pass and firing into the corner.

Lucian Favre, the coach for Nice, reacted furiously to the opening goal while Balotelli continued his discussion with officials, before eventually opting to substitute the player — who was jeered by home fans as he left the pitch.

“I don’t want to comment on Balotelli,” Favre said after the game. “It wasn’t very satisfactory, it was not good enough.” He also complained that Balotelli was too slow in leaving the field when he was substituted.

As for Napoli, their win ended a dismal run for Italy in the final play-off round where Serie A teams have lost at the same stage of the competition in the last three seasons, and it will be the first time since 2013-14 that Italy have had three teams in the group stage.

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