PARIS — Mario Balotelli scored twice as Nice gave Riviera rival Monaco its first defeat 4-0 and 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 titleholder Monaco’s first loss since December.
Also, Caen won a third consecutive league game in the same season for the first time in almost two years.
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 was a bonus 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 through ball. Plea shot between two defenders and 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 defence 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.
3 IN A ROW FOR CAEN
Caen’s 2-1 win over Dijon lifted the club to fifth in the standings.
Ivan Santini scored the opener with a "Panenka" kick from the spot. The Croatia striker has seven of the team’s last 13 goals.
KAKUTA ON TARGET
Midfielder Gael Kakuta, whose career has been blighted by injuries, scored his second goal of the season with a half-volley from the edge of the box as Amiens won at Strasbourg 1-0 in a match featuring promoted sides.
CARLOS FREE KICK
Nantes extended its unbeaten run to three matches by beating Montpellier 1-0, and Alban Lafont delivered another man-of-the-match performance as Toulouse drew at Troyes 0-0.
The France Under-20 goalie made decisive saves to keep his team afloat. Luck was also on his side when Adama Niane hit the post in the first half.