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COVID-19: Benfica vs Belenenses abandoned after coronavirus outbreak and injuries leave team with just six players on pitch

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A top-flight football game in Portugal was abandoned after one team ran out of players due to a COVID outbreak in the squad.

The match saw league leaders Benfica face off against relegation candidates Belenenses – the latter of whom was only able to field nine players at kick-off, including a goalkeeper playing outfield.

Belenenses’s squad was depleted after a player tested positive for COVID having returned from international duty in South Africa – before another 16 cases were reported in the team before the match.

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Soccer Football - Primeira Liga - Belenenses v Benfica - Estadio Nacional, Oeiras, Portugal - November 27, 2021 Benfica's Haris Seferovic celebrates scoring their second goal REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Benfica scored seven goals in the first half

South Africa has seen the highest number of Omicron variant cases – and numerous countries have now placed restrictions on travel to the country.

Despite trying to get the match called off, both teams were made to start the fixture by the league.

Starting with a two man advantage, Benfica scored seven unanswered goals by half time.

Belenenses returned from the break with only seven players on the field.

Shortly after the game restarted, Jaoa Monteiro, the goalkeeper playing outfield, sat down and was unable to continue.

Soccer Football - Primeira Liga - Belenenses v Benfica - Estadio Nacional, Oeiras, Portugal - November 27, 2021 Belenenses players after the match ended early after they started the match with 9 players due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the club REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Both teams said they had not wanted to play the game

With less than the minimum players needed for the game to continue, the referee called off the match – but the 7-0 result has been recorded.

In a post on social media after the game, the Belenenses players said: “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.”

Club president Rui Pedro Soares said: “In the middle of the afternoon we communicated to the Liga that we didn’t want to play the game.

“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 here today was a shame for all of us.”

Soccer Football - Primeira Liga - Belenenses v Benfica - Estadio Nacional, Oeiras, Portugal - November 27, 2021 Referee Manuel Mota before he called the match off early after Belenenses started with 9 players due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the club REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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The game was called off in the second half

Benfica president Rui Costa said: “We did not like to enter the pitch under these conditions.

“Benfica was forced to do it like Belenenses. I regret what happened today, a dark chapter for Portuguese football and for the country itself.”

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