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Benfica match abandoned after opponents concede seven and end with six players

A Covid outbreak had left Portuguese minnows Belenenses facing a crisis with 14 players unable to play and three staff members unavailable due to strict measures on self-isolation

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How football has “torn itself apart” since COVID pandemic

Portuguese football descended into farcical territory on Saturday night after Benfica’s match against Belenenses had to be abandoned, when their opponents finished the game with only six players at 7-0 down.

A Covid outbreak had left the Portuguese minnows facing a crisis with 14 players unable to play and three staff members unavailable due to strict measures on self-isolation.

It was expected that the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) would order the postponement of the clash.

But with no decision forthcoming and a potential fine or points deduction awaiting them if they forfeited the game, Belensenses had no option but to fulfil the fixture.

That left the club with just nine players available to field, two of which were goalkeepers, with shot-stopper Joao Manuel Silva Monteiro forced to play outfield.

Belenenses had only nine players to field after a coronavirus outbreak at the club

And from the first whistle, it promised to be a long 90 minutes for the hosts as Benfica showed no mercy to their stricken opponents in Lisbon.

They went behind inside the first minute thanks to an own goal from Eduardo Kau before goals from Haris Seferovic and Julian Weigl made this contest unfairly one-sided.

Seferovic, guilty of a shocking miss against Barcelona in midweek, helped himself to a second and Uruguayan striker Darwin Nunez needed just 13 minutes to complete a first-half hat-trick.

After the half-time interval had passed, the Belensenses team emerged for the second half with two players short due to apparent injuries suffered in the first half to Diogo Calila and Antonio Montez.

Monteiro was then unable to continue, leaving the home side with only six players and, as per IFAB Rule 3, the match has to be abandoned if one team has fewer than seven players on the pitch.

Belenenses chairman Rui Pedro Soares was reportedly reduced to tears after watching the nightmare unfold in front of him from the stands as the inquest began into the farcical events in Portugal.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Should UEFA introduce a minimum squad number rule for teams affected by Covid? Comment below.

Haris Seferovic (C) scored two goals as Benfica went seven goals up against Belenenses before the game was abandoned

The club posted a sombre statement after the game, which read: “Football only has heart if it is competitive. Football only has heart if it is really sporting.

“Football only has heart when it is an example of public health. Today, football lost its heart.”

Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva wrote on Twitter earlier in the match to register his confusion at the decision to allow the game to go ahead.

“What is this? Am I the only one who doesn’t understand why the game hasn’t been postponed?” he tweeted from his official account.

Alvaro Ramalho conceded seven first-half goals as Benfica showed no mercy to nine-man Belenenses

Benfica president Rui Costa said his side were “forced” to play and admitted his regret adding the two bodies who could have postponed the game, the league and the Directorate-General for Health, did not do so.

“I regret what happened today, a dark chapter for Portuguese football and for the country itself,” Costa said.

But the decision to play the match was blasted by Sporting Lisbon, who third in the table behind Benfica, insisting the result would have “serious implications” for Portuguese football.

A statement read: ”Portuguese football as a whole is seriously harmed today.

“What is happening has serious implications for the credibility of this championship and the institutions that regulate it.”

Belenenses goalkeeper Joao Monteiro, playing outfield, comes off injured

They added: “What made this situation possible must deserve a deep reflection by all those who defend the sporting truth and must deserve national attention at the highest level.

“It is already receiving international attention and marking yet another dark episode in Portuguese football.”

The result leaves Belenenses down in 16th in the Primeira Liga and, with a goal difference of -15, they could drop into the relegation zone if Maritimo win on Sunday.

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