Real Madrid fell to a stunning defeat against Moldovan champions FC Sheriff Tiraspol in arguably the biggest upset in the history of the Champions League group stages
It was a result that caused a shell-shocked Carlo Ancelotti to proclaim: “It is hard to describe this loss given the match that was played.”
Ancelotti had just overseen his first defeat since being re-appointed Real Madrid boss this summer at home to the side who currently sit third in the Moldovan top-flight.
FC Sheriff Tiraspol had caused the upset of the season and possibly the most stunning result ever in the group stages of the Champions League, triumphing 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu.
There could be no excuses for Real Madrid in this game; Ancelotti fielded his full-strength side, the Spanish club’s only goal had been from the penalty spot while the visitors also had a goal ruled out for offside.
Of course, Madrid dominated the statistics: peppering Sheriff’s goal with 30 shots while the visitors managed only four with Los Blancos enjoying 67 percent of possession and having all 13 corners in the match.
Thibaut Courtois made only one save, his counterpart Georgios Athanasiadis made 10.
This was Sheriff’s second ever game at this level and the truth is nobody at the club had expected them to reach this stage.
The Moldovan champions began their European campaign on 7 July and had to eliminate sides from Albania, Armenia, Serbia and Croatia to reach the group stages; their triumphs over Red Star Belgrade and Dinamo Zagreb received as huge upsets.
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That was nothing compared to their two-goal home victory over Shakhtar Donestk earlier this month, which was preceded by Tuesday’s stunning triumph.
A header from Uzbek midfielder Jasurbek Yakhshiboev ensured they went into the half-time break a goal up, but Karim Benzema’s second half penalty after Vinicius Junior was felled in the box restored parity and normality.
Then a sensational 89th-minute strike from Luxembourg international Sebastien Thill secured the most eye-catching of victories in the most dramatic circumstances.
Thill has a picture of himself dreaming of the Champions League tattooed on his leg, but that became a reality with his delivery of a moment that will go down in the competition’s folklore.
It was an unstoppable drive into the top corner of the net, giving Thibaut Courtois no chance and propel the Moldovan champions – who were only founded in 1997 and whose playing entire budget is less than £12million – into dreamland.
The result leaves Sheriff improbably, impossibly leading the group with six points from two games, Real Madrid remain second on three with Inter – who Sheriff now face in a double-header – and Shakhtar both on one point apiece.
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Madrid boss Ancelotti said after the game: “More than worried, we are sad. We played with intensity, commitment…but we lost because of the small details.
“The team played well. We could be finer in the last meters, but it is difficult to explain.
“The small details cost us the game and it can be a lesson for the future. It was a defeat that we did not deserve.”
Ancelotti may grumble about the outcome of the match, but Sheriff’s stunning success in Madrid will never be forgotten in the history of either club.