PARIS: 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 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.
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.
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.
Coach Leonardo Jardim made two half-time changes to try and turn around Monaco’s fortunes, with Thomas Lemar replaced by close-season signing Rachid Ghezzal and Guido Carillo joining Radamel Falcao up front.
Despite having the majority of possession, Monaco continued to struggle 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 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.
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. — AFP