Fotbal Club Sheriff – commonly known as Sheriff Tiraspol or simply Sheriff, is a Moldovan football club based in Tiraspol, a city located in the unrecognized breakaway state of Transnistria. Founded in 1997 as Tiras Tiraspol and rebranded the following year as Sheriff, it quickly established itself within Moldovan football.

“The Wasps” recorded their debut in the first league in the 1998–99 season, when they also won their first trophy, the Moldovan Cup. They have since amassed 19 championship titles, ten Cups and seven Super Cups–all competition records. On the European stage, Sheriff has reached the group stage of the UEFA Europa League on four occasions and became the first-ever Moldovan side to reach the group stages of the UEFA Champions League in 2021.

On 15 September, Sheriff won their opening group game, 2–0 against Shakhtar Donetsk, before following it up with an upset against one of the heavyweights in club football.

At the Santiago Bernabeu, it was time for Real Madrid to have fun rather than hanging around for a tight finish against a lower-ranked team, who were supposed to be treated like a punching bag. While Liverpool opened the floodgates at Porto, the Madridistas expected the same at Bernabeu – well, they were left shell shocked and as a matter of fact, Sheriff sent shockwaves not only in Madrid but throughout the football world.

Real Madrid suffered one of the most stunning and shocking defeats in their gilded European history with a 1-2 loss to Sheriff Tiraspol in Group D of the 2021-22 Champions League on Tuesday night at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

The upstart visitors jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but a strong second half from Los Blancos, including a Karim Benzema penalty conversion, had everyone believing that the 13-time European champions would pull through like always.

But the narrative was turned on its head on a firecracker of a goal from Sebastien Thill, who surely sent shockwaves not just through the Spanish capital but also the entire continent with a late strike that will forever live in Sheriff folklore.

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti opted to rest Luka Modric, Marco Asensio and Rodrygo Goes, while Miguel Gutierrez, Eduardo Camavinga and Eden Hazard were slotted into the starting XI.

To no one’s surprise, Real Madrid came out on the front foot but had to wait a bit before the first chance came when Benzema fired a free-kick that was parried away by Sheriff goalkeeper Giorgos Athanasiadis, who was nothing short of superb the entire night.

Sheriff were hanging tough and midway through the half, they stunned the Bernabeu by taking a surprise 0-1 lead. A counter-attack ended with an inch-perfect cross from Cristiano for the unmarked Jasurbek Yakhshiboev, whose header beat Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Real Madrid got right to work to try to pull themselves level, but an error from Courtois almost resulted in a second for the guests, with Yakhshiboev hooking a shot just wide.

Ancelotti’s men continued to hammer the Sheriff area, but could only shake their heads when Vinicius, Hazard and Benzema failed to finish chances just minutes apart.

Real Madrid’s dominance carried into the second half as they peppered the Sheriff area, yet the visitors stayed compact and were resolute in their defending. Minutes, after Hazard had a crack from outside that, forced Athanasiadis into a diving save, Real Madrid had a big penalty shout when Vinicius went down in the area after a clip from Fernando Costanza, but VAR said otherwise and play continued.

Vinicius kept at it, and moments later VAR would rule in Real Madrid’s favour for an Edmund Addo foul on the Brazilian in the Sheriff area. Benzema was tasked with penalty duties and promptly deposited the spot-kick into the back of the net to make it 1-1.

Right after the goal, Ancelotti went to his bench and made four changes, with Toni Kroos, Modric, Luka Jovic and Rodrygo all entering the pitch for Miguel, Casemiro, Hazard and Nacho respectively.

Vinicius was the player doing the damage for Real Madrid and a deflected effort almost fooled Athanasiadis for the home side’s second of the night. That was then followed by chances for Modric and Eder Militao, but once again Athanasiadis stood tall to make the saves.

All of Real Madrid’s attack was coming through Vinicius on the left-wing and a cut-back pass from Rodrygo was begging to be finished, but instead, it went over the crossbar.

The desperation of the Real Madrid attack and the supporters inside the Bernabeu was felt on every chance that went by the wayside, including a Jovic one in front of the goal in the final minutes.

There was still the sensation that a winner would come, but nobody would have ever guessed that it would be Sheriff to do it, but that’s exactly what happened in the final minutes when a ball fell perfectly for Thill, who took it on the bounce and fired an absolute bullet into the left corner of the net to deliver the shock 1-2 victory.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men lacked a finishing touch upfront and failed to beat Giorgos Athanasiadis, who produced various great saves to lead his team to victory.

Now, alarms may go off at Real Madrid, but there shouldn’t be panic at Los Blancos as there were many things to be positive about from this game, despite the result.

David Alaba is a world-class player, Eduardo Camavinga keeps on shining, Toni Kroos has returned to action, Vinicius Junior is a constant threat for any defence and Karim Benzema scored again.

Alaba is so good that there are games when it seems that Real Madrid are wasting his talent by playing at centre-back.

The Real Madrid defender does everything well. He intercepts, defends, steals balls, leads the team and poses a constant threat from dead-ball scenarios.

No matter how much he earns per year, Alaba’s signing was a bargain for Real Madrid.

The Real Madrid academy product – Miguel – has what it takes to become a great football player. Ancelotti is giving him an opportunity against weaker opponents and the young left-back is paying back his coach’s confidence with his impressive displays.

Only Alaba and Eder Militao were on the Bernabeu pitch for the final minutes of the game, as Real Madrid attacked in waves in search of an equalizer.

Fede Valverde, Camavinga, Kroos, Luka Modric, Vinicius, Rodrygo Goes, Luka Jovic and Benzema pushed for a second but failed to score.

With an expected goal ratio of 3.29 to Sheriff’s 0.42; Real Madrid digested an unexpected defeat like Manchester City.


Accidents happen in football.

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