Joao Felix announced himself to the world on a European stage as the teen sensation fired Benfica to victory over Frankfurt with a brilliant hat trick in an enthralling encounter at the Estadio da Luz.
The 19-year-old, who is reportedly a top target for Manchester United, appeared to put the home side in complete control of the Europa League quarter-final tie with three well-taken strikes, the third leaving the youngster in tears.
The visitors were on the verge of being blown away by the hosts but a 72nd-minute header from Gonzalo Paciencia kept the tie alive ahead of next week’s return fixture.
Benfica boss Bruno Lage left out top scorer and former Frankfurt striker Haris Seferovic, who had to be content with a place among the substitutes, while captain Andre Almeida was rested and replaced by Sebastien Corchia.
A groin strain sidelined Frankfurt striker Sebastien Haller, but defender N’Dicka and midfielder Sebastian Rode were recalled.
English Referee Anthony Taylor was soon called into action, booking Jovic, who is on loan from Benfica, for a foul on Rafa Silva after just four minutes.
Frankfurt dominated the early stages, effortlessly keeping possession, but it all unraveled after 21 minutes as N’Dicka conceded a penalty and was red-carded.
He could have no complaints at Taylor’s decision following his challenge on last man Gedson Fernandes, and Felix stepped up to beat Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp and put Benfica ahead.
Ante Rebic then followed Jovic by picking up a booking, and Frankfurt knew they had to regroup quickly following the penalty setback and seeing N’Dicka sent off.
But they responded impressively, drawing level five minutes before the break after Benfica’s Ljubomir Fejsa lost possession, Rode found Rebic and his cross was met by Jovic, who swept the ball home.
Frankfurt were level, though, for just four minutes, with Felix claiming his second – this time with a 25-yard shot – to leave Frankfurt trailing once more.
An eventful first half ended after Frankfurt had a goal disallowed. Filip Kostic netted from the edge of the penalty area, but it was ruled out for offside.
Benfica then took control of the tie, scoring twice in four minutes as Dias struck with a close-range header, then Felix completed his hat-trick by side-footing home Alejandro Grimaldo’s cross before Paciencia completed the scoring.