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Benfica match abandoned after COVID-hit opponents left with six players

LISBON, Nov 27 (Reuters) – Benfica’s Primeira Liga match at Belenenses on Saturday was abandoned amid extraordinary scenes after their COVID-19-hit opponents had been pressured to call a group of 9 players – together with two goalkeepers.

Benfica took benefit of their numerical superiority to rack up seven targets by halftime earlier than Belenenses returned with solely seven players for the second interval.

The match was then referred to as off two minutes after the break when Joao Monteiro, a goalkeeper enjoying in midfield, sat down on the down unable to proceed, forcing the referee to desert the sport which requires a minimal of seven players.

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Following a constructive COVID-19 check within the squad earlier within the week, a complete of 17 circumstances had been reported amongst Belenenses players and employees, the membership’s president Rui Pedro Soares instructed a news convention on Saturday earlier than the match.

The Belenenses players shared a message on social media earlier than the sport that stated: “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.”

Soares instructed reporters he had unsuccessfully requested the authorities for the sport to be postponed.

“In the middle of the afternoon we communicated to the Liga that we didn’t want to play the game,” he stated.

“We had eight players who could attend the game and as such they told us that if we didn’t attend the game it would be unjustified absence.

“Playing right here as we speak was a disgrace for all of us.”

NEW VARIANT

Soares told Saturday’s news conference that defender Cafu Phete had tested positive for COVID, having returned to Portugal on Thursday from international duty in South Africa.

Soares added that he was concerned the cases in the squad could be related to the new Omicron variant.

It was first discovered in South Africa and the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday classed it as a” variant of concern,” saying it may spread more quickly than other forms.

Benfica president Rui Costa said his side had no choice but to play the game on Saturday.

“We didn’t prefer to enter the pitch below these situations,” he said. “Benfica was pressured to do it like Belenenses. I remorse what occurred as we speak, a darkish chapter for Portuguese soccer and for the nation itself.”

Sporting, third in the standings behind leaders Benfica, also released a statement.

“What made this example doable should deserve a deep reflection by all those that defend the sporting reality and should deserve nationwide consideration on the highest stage,” it said.

“It is already receiving worldwide consideration and marking one more darkish episode in Portuguese soccer…”

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Reporting by Catarina Demony, writing by Peter Hall; Editing by Ken Ferris

Soccer Football - Primeira Liga - Belenenses v Benfica - Estadio Nacional, Oeiras, Portugal - November 27, 2021 Referee Manuel Mota ends the match early after Belenenses started the match with 9 players due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the club and Joao Monteiro sustains an injury REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

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