Eintracht Frankfurt's first loss of 2019 was largely down to a stunning display from Benfica teenager Joao Felix. The 19-year-old outshone Luka Jovic in a 4-2 win but Frankfurt's display suggests they're not done yet.
As Luka Jovic has plundered goal after goal in Eintracht Frankfurt's eye-catching runs in the Bundesliga and Europa League, it's been difficult to understand how Benfica were willing to let such a clinical 21-year-old go out on loan. Especially with a buyout fee thought to be about €7 million ($7.9 million).
While the storied Portuguese club have made a habit and a business model of developing and selling young talent, Jovic's 25 goals in 39 games this term have seen his name linked with some of Europe's biggest clubs and suggest Benfica misjudged his potential.
But as the Serbian was withdrawn at the Estadio da Luz so Adi Hütter could get some kind of grip on a game that had escaped his admirable side, few of the home fans would have been lamenting the color of his shirt.
The reason for that is Joao Felix (pictured, above). Two years younger than Jovic, the Portuguese forward scored a sublime hat trick on Thursday that emphasized why he's even more highly prized than his opponent.
The first goal, a penalty after Evan N'Dicka's push in the box saw him sent off, was nerveless, the second a surprise thunderbolt out of nowhere and the third a sharp low finish after Felix showed great awareness to hold his run as others flew past. Add in the cute reverse ball that forced the penalty and the bravery shown in challenging for the ball that led to Ruben Dias' third and the influence of the youngster on the game is obvious, and total.
N'Dicka's 20th minute dismissal for a naive foul put Frankfurt up against it early, allowing Felix to get his own show on the road. The youngster was a constant threat to a reorganized Frankfurt defense heavy on strength and heart but not equipped to cope with Felix's intelligent movement, vision and flair.
After Jovic fired home from 10 yards out to level things just before the break, Felix stepped up another gear, scoring two and making the other in a 10 minute period either side of halftime.
As good as Felix was, the home fans were nervous, even at 4-1 up. Eintracht, unbeaten in 2019 and with Atletico Madrid's record 15 game unbeaten Europa League streak in sight, are not a team who knows when they're beaten.
Adi Hütter's side kept pressing, kept putting their bodies on the line and kept asking questions. They eventually got the reward that keeps them alive in the 72nd minute when Goncalo Paciencia, just on as a substitute, looped home an excellent header. The big target man is a Porto youth academy graduate, just to add another layer to a breathless game.
Against all logic, 10-man Frankfurt finished stronger, with the tireless Filip Kostic missing a presentable chance to narrow the deficit still further.
While Felix's display will offer the Benfica faithful some lasting memories before he makes his seemingly inevitable move up the footballing ladder, Frankfurt's heart and spirit will leave Hütter full of hope for the return leg. Jovic may even steal back the spotlight.