Balotelli substitute Plea hits hat-trick for French league leaders Nice
Alassane Plea showed once more that he can fill in perfectly well for star striker Mario Balotelli, scoring a hat trick as unbeaten French league leader Nice won 4-2 at Metz.
Nice was missing Balotelli through injury, but Plea scored for the third time this season when leading the attack in his absence.
The 23-year-old Frenchman displayed great composure with two one-on-one finishes - including a
It was another mistake by Smalling that allowed Chelsea to extend its lead in the 21st. A Chelsea corner was flicked on at the near post by United’s Antonio Valencia, then hit teammate Ander Herrera before the lethargic Smalling allowed Cahill to evade him and the Chelsea defender netted via Blind’s back.
Eden Hazard started the incisive move that ended with a third goal just after the hour. N’Golo Kante then squared to Nemanja Matic, who returned the ball for Hazard to turn Smalling before dispatching the ball into the corner of the net.
There was worse to come for key goal in the 84th minute. Nice won for the eighth time in 10 games under Swiss coach Lucien Favre, who joined after six seasons with German club Borussia Moenchengladbach.
“It was a very tough match for us,” Plea said. “Our strength is that we never give up and we always look to keep scoring.”
Midfielder Wylan Cyprien grabbed the fourth goal in injury time. Nice remains four points clear of Monaco. Mourinho in the 70th. Pedro, who started the rout, set up Kante to complete it. Kante waltzed through United’s brittle defence with ease, going past Smalling - who else? - before slotting beyond De Gea.
Antonio Conte was savouring such an emphatic score that lifted Chelsea to fourth, with exuberant celebrations next to Mourinho.
Mourinho, who was fired by Chelsea for a second time last year, was incensed by the conduct of his permanent successor.
“You shouldn’t celebrate like that when it’s 4-0,” Mourinho reportedly told Conte after the game in comments picked up
Plea put the visitors ahead in the 14th, latching onto a clever pass behind the defence from Ivory Coast midfielder Jean Michael Seri.
It was Plea’s second goal of the week, having netted in a 1-0 win away to FC Salzburg in the Europa League on Thursday, and he also grabbed the winner against Nancy last month.
“Plea has extraordinary potential,” Favre said. “But it still needs working on.” from television footage by Italian media. “You can do so at 1-0, otherwise it’s humiliating for us.”
Neither manager disputed the account, but Conte defended his conduct.
“If we want to cut emotion then we can stay at home and change our job,” Conte said.
Mourinho, meanwhile, declared himself “delighted” with everything apart from the “mistakes.”
Mistakes that saw United concede four goals and fail to score, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic missing an early chance to equalise with a header.
Goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale gifted Metz an equalizer midway through the first half, spilling striker Mevlut Erdinc’s tame shot into the path of Cameroon midfielder Georges Mandjeck.
Plea made it 2-1 from the penalty spot in the 38th but Metz leveled midway through second half through Senegalese striker Habib Diallo - just 23 seconds after coming off the bench.
But Plea made another great run behind the defence to make it 3-2.
Chelsea’s team manager Antonio Conte, right, and Manchester United’s team manager Jose Mourinho talk after Sunday’s match at Stamford Bridge Photo: AP