Sheriff Tiraspol captain Frank Castaneda’s message to his teammates before their Champions League match at Real Madrid was simple: Why not dream? The motivation worked because the Moldovan champions — the primary team within the country’s history to feature within the Champions League group stage — shocked the 13-time tournament champions 2-1 on Tuesday at the Madrid’s Bernabeu stadium. The upstart visitors went ahead after 25 minutes when forward Jasurbek Yakhshiboev put a free header past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Karim Benzema equalized from the penalty spot after halftime before midfielder Sebastien Thill fired an 89th-minute winner into the highest corner.
“We believed we could win. I spoke to my teammates as captain, motivating them, saying ‘why not dream?’ this is often football,” Colombian forward Castaneda said. “Real Madrid is historic but on the pitch, it’s 11 vs. 11. We went for the win and got it.” The result leaves Sheriff top of group D with six points — after winning both of their matches thus far — with Real Madrid in second. “We played a very good game,” said Thill, who became the primary player from Luxembourg to attain a goal within the Champions League. “The side was so brave with how we played and fortunately enough I used to be ready to score a touch of a stunner.”
Goalkeeper Georgios Athanasiadis, 28 — who plays for Sheriff on loan from AEK Athens — was named UEFA’s Man of the Match for a display that saw him make ten saves. “I’m really happy,” he said. “It’s very difficult to play against these teams, the simplest within the world. I’m emotional, if I keep it up talking for much longer, I’ll find myself crying.” For his side, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti blamed “little details” for the loss.
“More than worried we’re sad,” Ancelotti said in his post-match press conference. “The team played with tons of intensity and commitment. I feel the small details — within the half across, within the last half a throw-in — decided the sport. Often they do not cost you, but with bad luck, they do.” Ancelotti added: “We had tons of opportunities. We could are more precise within the last 30 meters but it’s hard to elucidate this defeat with the sport we played… it is a good lesson for the longer term. A throw-in, a cross, a corner, a pointless foul… They cost you. We lost and that we didn’t deserve it.”
Madrid had a complete of 31 shots within the game — 11 of them on track — with Benzema, Vinicius Junior, Eden Hazard, Rodrygo, and Luka Jovic all going close. “We had numerous shots, their goalkeeper made tons of saves, and that I think you’ve got to congratulate them for scoring two goals,” said Real midfielder Casemiro. “We were on top of things of the sport, had many chances then they scored a wonder goal.” By contrast, the Sheriff had three shots that they had on track but were ready to convert two that the majority mattered. “I want to dream about winning at the Bernabeu,” Sheriff’s Peruvian defender Gustavo Dulanto said. “I’ve always followed Real, the club that’s won the foremost Champions Leagues, and to possess beaten them here reception may be a great achievement.”