Portuguese giants Benfica won a farcical Primeira Liga match after their opponents Belenenses SAD were forced to start the game with nine men. The Lisbon-based minnows suffered a Covid-19 outbreak in their squad earlier this week, but would have faced a points deduction or financial penalty if they forefeited the fixture.
As a result, they were put in an extraordinary situation where they took on Benfica with a squad of just nine players – including two goalkeepers, one of whom had to play outfield.
Benfica were already 7-0 up at half-time thanks to a hat-trick by Liverpool target Darwin Nunez along with a Haris Seferovic brace, a Julian Weigl strike and an own goal.
Belenenses then returned to the pitch with only eight players after half-time, and when one of their team went down injured the game was called off, with rules stating a match cannot continue with seven players or less on one side, and the bizarre encounter thus ended 7-0.
It is a deeply embarrassing situation for Portuguese football, and a number of high-profile figures took to social media to bemoan what had happened.
Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva was one of them, with the player tweeting: “What is this? Am I the only one who doesn’t understand why the game hasn’t been postponed?” along with a bemused face emoji.
Belenenses’ Covid woes began early in the week when one of their squad who had shown symptoms tested positive.
That was then followed by 13 further players being affected, along with four members of their coaching staff.
Despite their protests, the Portuguese powers-that-be insisted the match had to go ahead, and the angry Belenenses players posted a joint statement on social media 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.”
Their president Rui Pedro Soares, meanwhile, had previously said: “We have 38 players registered and we trust them all.
“Therefore the decision is up to health authorities. We will wait and we are going to respect their decision.”
The result means Benfica move to the top of the table ahead of Porto, and their goal difference was also given a significant boost from the thrashing.
Belenenses, meanwhile, are down in 16th after a loss which will have no doubt done big damage to their morale.