Sheriff Tiraspol stun Real Madrid with late goal to pull off biggest upset in Champions League history

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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Sheriff Tiraspol are celebrating pulling off the biggest shock in Champions League history after toppling Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

Luxembourg midfielder Sebastien Thill popped up with a dramatic 89th-minute winner for the Moldovan minnows against the 13-time champions of Europe, with Karim Benzema’s earlier penalty having cancelled out Jasurbek Yakhshiboev’s opening header.

Sheriff held on to see out one of the most incredible results ever in European football, topping Group D with six points from six after also beating Shakhtar Donetsk in their first-ever Champions League match a fortnight ago.

Sheriff are the first club from the Moldovan league to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League, although they are based in the breakaway region of Transnistria, a self-proclaimed independent nation which isn't recognised by any United Nations (UN) member state.

The club founded just over two decades ago is funded by the Sheriff company, which runs large parts of the economy in Transnistria and has strong political ties.

The visitors had rarely threatened until opening the scoring after a breakaway in the 25th minute, with Yakhshiboev finding the far corner with a firm header past Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

A mistake by Courtois a few minutes later while trying to move the ball up the field nearly gave Sheriff another goal, with Yakhshiboev's shot missing just wide of the post.

Benzema, Vinicius Junior, and Eden Hazard all had scoring chances as Madrid kept pressuring, but failed to capitalise on them while Sheriff threatened with counter-attacks.

Sheriff goalkeeper Giorgos Athanasiadis was named man of the match for helping stop a Madrid attack that had more than 20 attempts.

"This is soccer," Madrid midfielder Casemiro said. "We were in control during the entire match and had many scoring chances. They had only two and scored twice."

Benzema equalised from the penalty spot in the 65th minute after a controversial foul on Vinicius Junior as he tried to get past a defender inside the area. The referee initially let play continue but awarded the penalty after checking the video review.

Less than 10 minutes later, Sheriff had a potential winner by substitute Bruno called back for offside, but Thill still secured the victory near the end with a booming first-timer that hit the upper corner of the net.

Thill became the first player from Luxembourg to score a goal in the Champions League.

Sheriff players celebrated loudly after the final whistle as many Madrid fans jeered their team after their second consecutive setback at the Bernabeu.

Madrid had won five in a row in all competitions before being held by Villarreal to a scoreless home draw in LaLiga last weekend. Real have won only five of their last 13 European games at home.

Madrid are back at the Bernabeu this season after playing at the smaller Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium in its training centre during the pandemic.

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti made four changes at once after the equaliser, with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos among those coming off the bench.

Additional reporting by AP.

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