Nice routs titleholder Monaco 4-0 in French league

PARIS (AP) Mario Balotelli scored twice as titleholder Monaco slumped to its first defeat, 4-0 at Riviera rival Nice that gave Paris Saint-Germain an edge in the French league standings on Saturday.

Nice, which came into the game with only three points from four matches, ended Monaco’s run of 16 straight league wins carrying over from last season with a fine tactical display. It was Monaco’s first loss since December.

Balotelli, who also scored a brace in the same fixture last season, opened the scoring from the spot and added another at the hour mark. Alassane Plea and substitute Ignatius Kpene Ganago completed the rout.

Monaco’s loss is turning out well for PSG, which extended its perfect record to five games with a 5-1 win at Metz on Friday, and has a three-point lead over the defending champion.

Monaco can, however, find consolation in the fact that it lost this match 4-0 last season and still won the title.

”It’s catastrophic but we need to move on,” Monaco defender Djibril Sidibe said. ”They were clinical and we were inferior.”

Nice kept a tight and low defensive line to counter Monaco’s attacking moves. Up front, Nice needed only six minutes to move ahead after Balotelli was brought down in the area by Sidibe following a counterattack. Balotelli converted from the spot to bag his first goal this season.

Monaco had most of the possession but was caught on the break 12 minutes later when Allan Saint-Maximin found Plea with a throughball. The French forward ran into the box and shot between two defenders past goalkeeper Danijel Subasic to double the hosts’ lead.

Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim sent in Guido Carrillo and Rachid Ghezzal after the interval but the changes had no impact.

Monaco’s display was even worse and its defense was caught napping when Arnaud Souquet was left unchallenged down the right flank and delivered a perfect cross for Balotelli at the far post to tap in. Ganago then made the most of a perfect long ball from Pierre Lees-Melou to dribble around Subasic and score into an empty net.

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