PARIS: Table-toppers Nice suffered their first Ligue 1 defeat of the season on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) when they went down 1-0 after a hotly disputed penalty at Caen.
The southern side still top Ligue 1 with 29 points ahead of Monaco on 26 while champions Paris Saint Germain are third, also on 26 points after a 4-0 home win over Rennes.
Nice have surprisingly set the pace in France this season under new coach Lucien Favre and with added zest in front of goal inspired by Italian center forward Mario Balotelli.
But after a tough defeat in the Europa League in midweek and an away match at the very opposite end of France at Caen they suffered their first league reverse.
The goal came from the penalty spot and was converted by the Croat Ivan Santini after the referee decided Ronny Rodelin had been fouled in the area on 42 minutes.
“We conceded just before the break and that’s never good. We should have gone in 0-0,” lamented Favre.
“And then we tried to do it all too quickly. We had a couple of chances and that’s all you should normally need.”
Champions PSG kept up the pressure in a 4-0 home win over Rennes although the three points was overshadowed by injury to star striker Edinson Cavani.
Gelson Fernandes put through his own goal on the half-hour mark before a smart lob from Cavani after 42 minutes made it 2-0 for his 11th goal of the season.
The Uruguayan striker was taken off just before half-time with a thigh injury.
Adrien Rabiot added a third for PSG after 67 minutes, following a mistake by Rennes goalkeeper Benoît Costil, before Marco Verratti hit the fourth goal on 79 minutes.
Despite Nice fielding a strong line up with their top scorer Alassane Plea with seven league goals, and Balotelli with six leading the attack, they came up against a deep sitting defence and midfield.
“They were well organised at the back with five defenders and were very compact, difficult to get past,” Favre explained.
A stinging Balotelli drive on the hour after a quick-fire pass from Younes Belhanda hit the bottom of the Caen post and was their best opportunity.
On Saturday, Radamel Falcao continued his return to prominence with a brace as Monaco kept up their superb form by thumping Nancy 6-0 at the Stade Louis 2nd.
Falcao’s goals, the second of which came from the penalty spot, were followed by a Kylian Mbappe strike moments after his second-half introduction.
Guido Carrillo added two late goals either side of a Fabinho penalty.
The win also underlined Monaco’s status as the most prolific side in Europe’s big five leagues — they are averaging three goals a game after 12 matches and have scored at least six goals on three separate occasions since the start of October.
“We are doing better this year, providing a spectacle,” said coach Leonardo Jardim.
“We are also pleased to have the best attack in Europe ahead of Barcelona with Messi, Suarez and Neymar.”
Fourth-placed Guingamp came from behind to draw 3-3 at Dijon with Belgian substitute Nill De Pauw equalizing in stoppage time.
Toulouse were held to a 1-1 draw at Nantes while Lyon needed an Alexandre Lacazette penalty — his 10th goal of the season — and a Pierre Bengtsson own goal to beat nine-man Bastia 2-1.