PARIS (AP) — Alassane Plea scored four goals in a display of clinical finishing as Nice came from behind to win 5-2 at Guingamp in the French league on Sunday.
In the absence of Mario Balotelli, who was out injured with a thigh injury, Plea took on the scoring duties and got his first league quadruple. The former Lyon striker converted four of his six shots.
The emphatic victory revived Nice’s hopes of qualifying for the Europa League, lifting the Riviera side to within one point of fifth-place Nantes with nine matches left. With leader Paris Saint-Germain and second-place Monaco in the League Cup final, the fifth spot is likely to bring Europa League football next season.
“We went through difficult times this season and lost many points we should have picked up,” Plea said. “But we are still in the mix … It’s going to be tight, but there is room to go and get a European qualification.”
Nice quickly recovered after Clement Grenier opened the scoring for the hosts from the penalty spot in the ninth minute, netting his first goal for Guingamp since joining from Lyon during the winter transfer window.
Plea leveled on the break in the 24th minute with a left-foot shot and hit the post with a header before halftime. Nice took the lead in the 47th minute with a superb effort from Plea, who controlled the ball with his chest to get past Jonathan Martins-Pereira on the left side, cut inside to the area, rounded Christophe Kerbrat and beat goalkeeper Kalle Johnsson with his right foot.
The 25-year-old Plea, who scored a hat trick against Metz last season, made it 3-1 near the hour-mark from a tight angle after being set up by Pierre Lees-Melou. Guingamp pulled one back through Grenier, whose free-kick was headed into his own goal by Nice defender Santos Marlon with six minutes left.
The suspense did not last for long, though, as substitute Bassem Srarfi restored his side’s two-goal lead with a header two minutes later. Plea got his fourth in stoppage time to take his season tally to 10 goals.
SUB’S FASTEST GOAL
Marseille striker Konstantinos Mitroglou scored the fastest goal for a substitute this season, needing just 35 seconds after coming on to net the winner in a 2-1 win at Toulouse.
Often criticized by Marseille fans, Mitroglou’s superb effort involved a quick one-two with Dimitri Payet. The France international was set up by Mitroglou down the right flank and cut back a precise cross to his Greek teammate who slotted home with an acrobatic volley under the crossbar in the 79th minute.
It was Mitroglou’s fourth league goal this season.
Lucas Ocampos had given Marseille an early advantage in the 10th minute but the visitors failed to hold onto their lead as Firmin Mubele leveled from close range nine minutes later.
Marseille dominated in the later stages and should have extended its lead in stoppage time when Bouna Sarr rattled the crossbar with a long-range effort and Mitroglou headed the ball onto the post from the rebound.
Marseille moved within four points of second-place Monaco in the fight for Champions League qualification and kept its five-point lead over Lyon intact ahead of their meeting next Sunday.
LYON BACK TO WINNING
Fourth-place Lyon ended a six-game winless run, including three losses in the French league, with a 1-0 scrappy win against Caen.
Facing a well-organized side, Lyon had only a few opportunities and failed to convert its sole first-half chance when Caen goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre parried away a shot from Myziane Maolida in the 34th minute.
Vercoutre was saved by his post after the interval when Ferland Mendy unleashed a curled strike from 20 meters (yards), and Caen responded through Enzo Crivelli’s header, which hit the woodwork in the 58th.
Lyon finally broke the deadlock near the hour-mark when Bertrand Traore connected with a cross from Mendy and slotted home for his seventh league goal this season.