Sunday, May 27, 2018 | ePaper
Balotelli double helps Nice thrash Monaco
Mario Balotelli scored a brace as Monaco's record 16-match winning streak in Ligue 1 was ended with a 4-0 thumping by Nice at the Allianz Riviera on Saturday.
Balotelli's early penalty put Nice ahead, before Alassane Plea made it two in the 18th minute.
Monaco tried to apply some pressure early in the second period, but Balotelli completed a brace to put the game beyond the reach of the reigning French champions and teenage substitute Ignatius Ganago finished the rout to leave the visitors shell-shocked.
It was a vibrant display from Nice, who finished third last season, after losing three of their first four league games of the season before the international break. "This game was great for us, it gets us back on track," said Nice coach Lucien Favre, after his side had repeated their 4-0 home win over Monaco from 12 months ago. "Plea and Balotelli together, it's good if those around them are good too.
"Mario must be involved in the pressing too. He did that. It is a positive, but also indispensable. After that, there are no worries about his ability to score goals."
For Monaco it could prove a costly loss, as they slipped three points behind early leaders Paris Saint-Germain after their first match since teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe left for the capital club.
"We have to stand beside our players because today was a bad day for us," said Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim.
"It's been a year since we didn't turn up, and that was here.
"But against Nice our ratio of wins and losses is still balanced, and last year we lost 4-0 here and ended up as the champions."
Balotelli returned from injury to make his first league start of the campaign, but close-season signing Wesley Sneijder missed out after hobbling off at half-time in the Netherlands' World Cup qualifier against France last week.
A rapid counter-attack from the hosts caught Monaco cold in just the fifth minute, and after Monaco keeper Danijel Subasic had denied Plea, Balotelli was hauled down in the area by Djibril Sidibe.
The enigmatic Italian has an excellent record from the spot, which he continued by slamming the ball into the corner past a despairing Subasic for his first league goal of the season.
Monaco built their successes of last season on a counter-attacking style, but they were again exposed on the break themselves as Nice doubled their advantage.
Allan Saint-Maximin picked out Plea, who cut inside before driving a strike into the far corner, with the aid of a slight deflection, to make it three goals in his last four outings.
Despite having the majority of possession, Monaco continued to struggle in the second half and were punished on the hour mark.
Nice full-back Arnaud Souquet was given the freedom of the right flank and his low cross was tapped in by an unmarked Balotelli from close range.
When the away side finally created a chance of note, Argentinian forward Guido Carillo headed over.
Cameroonian Ganago came off the bench to make his Ligue 1 debut, and the 18-year-old added further gloss to the scoreline by latching onto a long ball over the top to round Subasic and slot home.
Elsewhere, Nantes claimed a 1-0 win over Montpellier to make it three successive clean sheets, with Diego grabbing the winner, while 10-man Caen beat Dijon 2-1 for their third straight victory.
Former Chelsea forward Gael Kakuta scored for the second game in a row as Ligue 1 newcomers Amiens made it back-to-back wins by edging out fellow promoted outfit Strasbourg 1-0.
On Friday, Mbappe scored on his debut as PSG made it five straight wins to kick off the new season with a 5-1 thrashing of 10-man Metz.
Edinson Cavani's double took him to seven league goals for the season, while world record signing Neymar also got on the scoresheet.