Nice held 1-1 at Nantes as title dream fades

Football Soccer - FC Nantes v OGC Nice - France Ligue 1 - La Beaujoire Stadium, Nantes, France - 18/03/2017 - Nice's Mario Balotelli reacts. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

PARIS (Reuters) - Injury-hit Nice's hopes of a first Ligue 1 title since 1959 suffered a setback on Saturday when they were held to a 1-1 draw at mid-table Nantes.

Jean Michael Seri cancelled out Emiliano Sala's opener to earn the third-placed visitors a point, which moves them on to 64 points, one behind Paris St Germain and four behind leaders AS Monaco ahead of their games at home to Olympique Lyonnais and at Caen respectively on Sunday.

Sala crowned an intense opening spell for Nantes when he beat keeper Yoan Cardinale in the 22nd minute, after being picked out by Jules Iloki, for his fourth goal in his last five matches.

However, surprise package Nice, without key players Alassane Plea, Wylan Cyprien and captain Paul Baysse due to injury, responded six minutes later when Seri netted with a delightful strike from the edge of the box.

"It's a good point," Nice coach Lucien Favre told journalists. "It was a difficult match, as we expected.

"As I've said, I'm not looking at (the table), either the teams ahead or behind us. I look at how we play and what we're currently capable of doing."

Nice saw a lot of the ball after the break but were unable to make the most of their dominance, with Italian frontman Mario Balotelli needlessly distracted by a tit-for-tat battle with Nantes' Diego Carlos.

"(The title) will be difficult," said Nice defender Dante. "Above all we need to continue to work to make the fans happy.

"There are absentees at the moment, but we have to continue to work hard and push forward."

Nantes remain in 10th place on 38 points.

(Reporting by Ed Dove; Editing by Ken Ferris, Neville Dalton)