Covid outbreak forces Portuguese team Belenenses to start with nine men and lose 7-0 in 46 minutes

·3-min read
Belenenses' nine-man team that started against Benfica in the Primeira Liga on Saturday night - REUTERS
Belenenses' nine-man team that started against Benfica in the Primeira Liga on Saturday night - REUTERS

Benfica’s Primeira Liga match on Saturday night was abandoned in the 46th minute in farcical scenes after opponents Belenenses-SAD started the game with just nine players and went 7-0 down before the game was eventually called off.

A Covid outbreak had left Belenenses with only nine available players, two of which were goalkeepers, but club president Rui Pedro Soares confirmed before kick-off that he had not asked for the game to be postponed despite the decimated squad. The club announced before the match that 17 players and staff had tested positive for Covid-19, as infections continue to rise across Europe.

But Soares was soon pictured in tears on the sidelines at half-time as his side were humiliated by the 37-time Portuguese champions Benfica, the most successful side in the country’s top-flight history.

The chaos began to unfold before kick-off when Belenenses published a teamsheet that was missing two players, contained four players who are not listed on the official squad list and featured goalkeeper Joao Monteiro in midfield.

Matters were not helped when defender Eduardo Kau put the ball into his own net in the opening minute of the match, and by half-time the score had grown to a humiliating 7-0, with Darwin Nunez scoring a hat-trick.

The farcical scenes at the Estadio Nacional caught the eye of Manchester City’s Portuguese international Bernardo Silva, with the former Benfica midfielder writing on Twitter: “What is this? Am I the only one who doesn't understand why the game hasn't been postponed?”

Initially, it looked as though Belenenses were not going to return to the pitch for the second half, fuelling suggestions that they had withdrawn from the match.

However, when they did eventually emerge from the tunnel, they did so with only seven players, having not been able to name any substitutes.

And the referee was forced to abandon the match just a minute into the second half when Monteiro dropped to the turf, meaning they no longer had the required minimum number of seven players on the field.

A backlash is now set to land at the door of the Premiera Liga officials, who forced the match to go ahead despite it being made clear in the lead up to the match that Belenenses were not going to be able to field a competitive team.

The Belenenses players had released a joint statement ahead of the match, 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."

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