Balotelli at double as Nice stun Monaco
By D. Crossan
Mario Balotelli scored twice as Nice stunned Ligue 1 champions Monaco, winning 4-0 at the Allianz Riviera for the second year running to end the visitors' 100% record this campaign.
After only three points from their opening four fixtures, this was just the tonic required for Les Aiglons as they comprehensively dominated the encounter. Monaco were sloppy defensively and lost Thomas Lemar to a hamstring injury at half-time, adding to their worries ahead of their Champions League opener at RB Leipzig on Wednesday.
Much had changed since last year when Kylian Mbappé was an unused Monaco substitute and had only scored one Ligue 1 goal in his young career. The post-Mbappé era started with an off-colour performance, Djibril Sidibé rightly qualifying the visiting display as "catastrophic".
Sidibé conceded a needless early penalty when he pulled back Balotelli. The forward's first Ligue 1 Conforama goal of the season was an emphatic conversion from 12 yards as Danijel Subasic was left helpless despite going the right way.
Nice's 4-4-2 mirrored Monaco's and the home side destroyed their neighbours on the counter. Allan Saint-Maximin, who made the short journey from Monaco to Nice for a club record 10 million euros this summer, released Alassane Plea in behind the high Monaco line on 18 minutes and the forward had the confidence to cut inside Jemerson and find the corner, though Subasic will have been disappointed to have failed to turn the ball around the post having got a big hand on it.
Plea nearly added to the advantage ten minutes before the break when he curled one wide and Balotelli headed over in the 40th minute as Nice continued to dominate. Arnaud Souquet and Saint-Maximin combined brilliantly down the right and captain-for-the-day Jean-Michaël Seri looked unaffected by his non-move to Barcelona.
On the hour Souquet's precise low cross was turned in from close range by the unmarked Balotelli to make the points safe. Leonardo Jardim threw on Stevan Jovetic for his Monaco debut but the visitors didn't muster an attempt on target until the 84th minute when Sidibé shot straight at Yoan Cardinale.
Nice went straight down the field to add a fourth. Pierre Lees-Melou clipped a ball over the top and Ignatius Ganago, the 18-year-old Cameroonian on for Balotelli, kept his composure to round Subasic and tuck the ball away for a memorable debut strike. Paris Saint-Germain were left almost as contented as Nice, the capital club now three points clear of Monaco at the top and with a goal difference advantage of 10 over the principality club.
THE PLAYER: Mario Balotelli
The Italian had been restricted to 25 minutes of Ligue 1 Conforama play prior to the derby. Balotelli proved he'd recovered from injury and illness by matching his double from last season's derby at the Allianz Riviera.
THE STAT: 25
This was Monaco's first Ligue 1 Conforama defeat since December 18 2016 when they lost 3-1 at home to Olympique Lyonnais. Leonardo Jardim's men failed to score after a run of netting in 36 consecutive league outings.