On a night of firsts, the Moldovan champions secured one of the greatest surprises in the history of the competition by beating the 13-time champions at a stunned Bernabeu, where the least experienced side to take part this season beat the most historically successful team in European football in dramatic fashion.
Uzbek winger Jasurbek Yakhshiboev headed the opener after 25 minutes, although most onlookers would still have tipped heavyweights Madrid to earn a point or three after narrowly winning at reigning Italian champions Inter Milan in their Group D opener.
Madrid rained in 31 attempts on goal to their visitors’ four in an increasingly desperate attempt to restore parity, finally drawing level when usually-reliable hitman Karim Benzema converted a 65th-minute penalty.
Not to be denied, Sheriff secured the points at the death when Sebastien Thill, a Luxembourg international who scored the only goal for his nation in a memorable Euro 2016 qualifier against North Macedonia, half-volleyed an unstoppable long-range effort beyond former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, sealing a shock win in the 90th minute.
Thill is on loan to Sheriff from a Luxembourg club that plays at a stadium with a capacity of well under 5,000 – a capacity that is around a 16th of Madrid’s vast home stadium.
“We’re so happy today,” said thrilled Thill, who played seven times for former Russian Premier League side Tambov in 2020.
“We played a really good game. The side were so brave with how we played and luckily enough I was able to score a bit of a stunner.”
The Liga leaders started with an illustrious lineup including Eden Hazard, Chelsea’s Player of the Season before he joined Madrid in a deal that could be worth around $203 million.
Boss Carlo Ancelotti was also able to introduce the likes of Germany international Toni Kroos, $70 million striker Luka Jovic and former Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric as his side toiled for answers.
The club had to play eight qualification games to reach the group stage, serving notice of their threat when they beat competition regulars Dinamo Zagreb 3-0 in their decisive qualifying tie.
“We aren’t thinking about the last 16 yet as we still haven’t done anything extraordinary,” claimed manager Yuriy Vernydub. “We’re just going forward step by step.
“We have four very important games to go and, when it comes to the final group stage game, then we’ll talk about the next round.
“I’m happy to play a game like that against Madrid. I’m so full of emotion and thankful to my boys for what they’ve done. They went out there as a side, and we deserved it.”
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