Belenenses vs Benfica called off after hosts reduced to six players by Covid and injuries

Belenenses started with only nine players, including two goalkeepers, after being decimated by an outbreak of Covid-19 as game called off in second half

A top-flight Portuguese game ended in farce on Saturday when the referee called the match between Belenenses and Benfica in the second half after Belenenses started with only nine players, including two goalkeepers, after being decimated by an outbreak of Covid-19.

Belenenses played one of their goalkeepers, Joao Monteiro, outfield and had no substitutes at the Estadio Nacional where Benfica reached half time with a 7-0 lead.

The game was called off by referee Manuel Mota three minutes into the second half, after three injuries meant Belenenses were reduced to six players.

"It was a disgrace to play here tonight," said Belenenses president Rui Pedro Soares, applauding "the players who were forced to play".

Reports in Portugal claimed Belenenses were without 14 players due to Covid, as well as several members of staff.

Belenenses coach Filipe Candido had indicated on Saturday that he would have to promote some under-23 players due to injuries and suspensions.

After informing the league "that we didn't wish to play the match, we were told we had eight players able to play" and "not turning up could be considered an unjustified absence", said the Belenenses president.

"It's a dark chapter for Portuguese football," said Benfica president Rui Costa, adding that his club "just like Belenenses were obliged to play" to respect the rules.

Supporters in the stadium chanted: "The league is a disgrace."

Manchester City's Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva wrote: "What is this? Am I the only one who doesn't understand why the game hasn't been postponed?"

Belenenses sat 16th in the Primeira Liga at the start of the game while Benfica were third.

Updated: November 28th 2021, 4:32 AM