Football Features

“Remember the European Super League?” Sheriff Tiraspol shock Real Madrid to continue perfect Champions League record

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:44, 28 September 2021

Karim Benzema wrote a new Champions League record on Tuesday night but it was not enough to prevent Sheriff Tiraspol’s shock win over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The story of the night, and possibly of the Champions League this season, was Sheriff’s victory as they took the lead twice to humiliate Real Madrid in front of their own fans and get their second group stage win.

When the Champions League draw was made, nobody gave first-timers Sheriff a chance, placed in a group alongside Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk but after two games they top the group with a perfect record, three points clear of the rest.

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Understandably, Real Madrid were in full control of the game, but it was Sheriff who took their chances, netting with two of their four shots (three of which hit the target). The first came through Jasurbek Yakhshiboev, as Sheriff launch a quick attack, moving from one end of the pitch to the other in a very short space of time. Real Madrid were opened up by one ball through the middle and beaten by an excellent cross from Cristiano for Yakhshiboev to head in past Thibaut Courtois.

As the game went on and time was starting to run out, Real Madrid finally got their key opportunity to equalise as Vinicius Jr drew a foul in the area from Edmund Addo, leaving the referee (and VAR) very little option but to point to the spot. What happened next was an inevitability as Benzema stepped up and converted from the spot for his ninth goal of the season across all competitions, and 16th total goal involved in just nine matches.

On top of being the equaliser, the goal was also a landmark moment for Benzema for two reasons. First, he moved up to fourth outright on the list of the Champions League’s all-time top goalscorers, one ahead of Real Madrid legend Raul with his 72nd goal and now only three behind Robert Lewandowski (Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are on 135 and 121 respectively).

But perhaps even more impressively, Benzema achieved a feat neither Ronaldo nor Messi had been able at the point of his scoring, in netting in the 17th consecutive Champions League season. He would soon be joined by Messi who netted his first goal for Paris Saint-Germain in their 2-0 win over Manchester City, but Benzema will always be the first.

Many would have then expected Real Madrid to push on and get the win, potentially by a few goals, making it appear more comfortable than it actually was. But it was Sheriff who would get the third and final goal of the game, as Sebastien Thill sent an absolute rocket first-time into the top corner, leaving Courtois no chance.

The goal not only had Sheriff players, staff and fans celebrating but also those watching around the world, witnessing what could be one of the biggest Champions League shocks in history. Naturally, there was a lot of talk about the failed European Super League that Real Madrid were a part of.

As well as leading Group C, Sheriff are the first team to win their opening two Champions League matches since Leicester did so in 2016/17 en route to a quarter-final finish.