Newcomers in the UEFA Champions League, Sheriff Tiraspol have created quite a ripple by stunning 13-time winners Real Madrid 2-1 at their home arena Santiago Bernabeu in Group D, and the footballing world is astounded by the feat achieved by a hitherto unknown side, which doesn’t even boast of any big names.
Jasurbek Yakhshiboev opened the scoring for Sheriff — a club based in Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, a breakaway state located on the Moldovan-Ukrainian border — with a header in the 25th minute and Real could manage the equaliser only 40 minutes later, thanks to a successful penalty-kick conversion from Karim Benzema.
But shortly before the final whistle, Sebastien Thill buried the Los Blancos’ hopes of victory, scoring the winner in the 89th minute and possibly creating the biggest upset at this level in decades.
It was a day that left both sides emotional. Real manager Carlo Ancelotti said after the loss that, “Everything went well for them (Sheriff) while everything we did turned out badly.
“More than worried, we are sad. We played with intensity and commitment but lost due to the finest details. The team played well, we could have been sharper in the area but it’s difficult to explain what happened,” a stunned Ancelotti added.
“This is so emotional. I’m very appreciative of my boys for this great job. We are a real team,” Sheriff boss Yuriy Vernydub was quoted as saying by skysports.
“We knew we could win here and before the game we had it in our heads that we could and as captain I tried to motivate the team and tell them we could do it because this is football. Real Madrid is an historic team but on the pitch, it’s 11 players versus 11 and we came here to get the victory and got it,” added the Sheriff manager.
Following the victory, Sheriff — a club founded in 1997 in the unrecognised breakaway state of Transnistria — are the leaders of Group D with six points. They had defeated Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 in their opening game to notch three points.
Before their match against Real Madrid, the club only had 6,000 followers on Twitter and the fan following hasn’t quite grown by leaps and bounds after their historic win, only touching 17,200. In contrast, the Spanish giants have an army of 38 million followers on social media.
Though ‘not’ a part of Moldova, Sheriff play in the Moldovan league and have won 20 of the 22 league titles they have contested.
According to information available on the internet, the club derives its name from Sheriff, the second-largest company based in the unrecognised breakaway state of Transnistria, in the city of Tiraspol.
Formed in the early 1990s by two members of the special services — Viktor Gushan and Ilya Kazmaly — the company has grown to include several profitable businesses in the unrecognised country, and has major stakes in local politics and sport.