Nice’s dream start to the season continued as Mario Balotelli inspired them to a 4-1 hammering of visiting Nantes to extend their Ligue 1 lead to six points on Sunday.
The Italian striker, who joined from Liverpool during the close season, scored his sixth league goal and was involved in two others in an impressive display at the Allianz Riviera.
Midfielder Wylan Cyprien struck twice and Alassane Plea also found the net to put unbeaten Nice on 29 points from 11 games.
Monaco are second on 23 points after a 1-1 draw at St Etienne on Saturday while champions PSG are third, also on 23 points after a 1-0 win at Lille on Friday.
Lucien Favre’s team got off to a shaky start but opened the scoring in the 10th minute.
Younes Belhanda’s lofted pass found Balotelli, who was fouled in the box, but the ball bounced into the path of Cyprien for the midfielder to poke home.
Balotelli doubled the tally in the 26th minute with a low shot after being set up by Jean-Michael Seri’s fine through ball.
Emiliano Sala, who missed a huge opportunity to put the visitors in front after two minutes, fired home from inside the area two minutes into the second half to reduce the deficit.
Nice, however, stepped up another gear and moved 3-1 up on the hour as Plea headed home from a corner after benefiting from keeper Rudy Riou’s poor attempt to punch clear.
Five minutes later, Cyprien rounded off Nice’s ninth league win with a powerful shot after collecting Ricardo Pereira’s pass, the full back having been set up by a clever flick from Balotelli.
The result left Nantes in 15th place on 11 points, one point above the relegation zone.
MARIO BALOTELLI IN LIGUE 1
Shot accuracy: 86 per cent
Chances created: 1
Pass accuracy: 75 per cent
Duels won: 42 per cent
Yellow/red cards: 2/1