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Joao Mario refused to take Champions League match ball despite scoring hat-trick vs Inter Milan

Jack Kenmare

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Joao Mario refused to take Champions League match ball despite scoring hat-trick vs Inter Milan

He may have scored a 34-minute hat-trick against his former club, but Joao Mario gave up the Champions League match ball after Benfica threw away a three goal lead.

The 30-year-old midfielder was in dreamland when he handed Roger Schmidt's side a three goal advantage in Wednesday night's Group D clash with Inter Milan.

Mario, who spent five years at the Italian club between 2016 and 2021, netted in the fifth, 13th and 34th minute.

But second-half goals from Marko Arnautovic, Davide Frattesi and Alexis Sanchez, who netted from the penalty spot, completed the dramatic comeback inside a stunned Estadio da Luz.

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After the full-time whistle, Mario's teammate Casper Tengstedt handed over the match ball to hat-trick hero Mario, who didn't look too impressed by his side's capitulation.

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In fact, the Portugal international was desperate to give the ball away and, after one of his teammates refused, Mario simply threw it away.

Benfica manager Roger Schmidt criticised the officiating in his post-match press conference.

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"Unfortunately, the performance of the refereeing team... I'm appalled," he said. "It's unbelievable that this is possible in the Champions League.

"If we needed evidence that more referees aren't producing a better result on the pitch, then today we had it. There were six people involved in all the decisions.

"Before the second goal, you could argue about a foul in midfield. And then the penalty was a joke. It was a foul for us in a very good position. That was the first mistake.

"The second mistake was the penalty. In the end, they gave a penalty, it wasn't a penalty. They gave a red card, it wasn't a red card."

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Image credit: Getty
Image credit: Getty

He added: "Throws, corners, everything they could do wrong, they did wrong. To be honest, it was a disaster for me. My players deserved better than what they got today."

As a result of their latest draw, Benfica have been knocked out of the Champions League but they could secure Europa League football if results go their way.

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"Of course it's difficult, because we know we don't just have to win [Benfica need to win by at least two goals]," Schmidt said.

"It's very hard at Salzburg, but it's our job. It's very difficult to play there without fans, but we won't complain. We have a clear situation. We have to be ready for this game, and we'll do our best to reach the Europa League."

Featured Image Credit: Getty Images - TNT Sports

Topics: Benfica, Portugal, Champions League, Inter Milan

Jack Kenmare
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