Balotelli sub­sti­tute Plea hits hat-trick for French league lead­ers Nice

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

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

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