In just his second appearance in the Champions League, European football’s top competition, Greek goalkeeper Giorgos Athanasiadis secured his Moldovan club, Sheriff Tiraspolis, a win in Madrid on Tuesday.
That was the biggest upset in the history of the competition. It can only be compared to the huge 2004 upset of the Greek national team winning the European championship against all the odds.
In a series of incredible saves, Athanasiadis all but secured a clean sheet (he conceded a penalty shot by Real Madrid) for his side. His performance between the goalposts was instrumental to his team’s heroic achievement in the unbelievable 2 – 1 win in Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
Sheriff as David, Real Madrid Champions League as Goliath
Sheriff Tiraspolis, one of this season’s Champions League Cinderella teams, having never qualified in the competition’s group stage. The Moldovan champions, founded in 1997 in the small Moldovan city of Tiraspolis, had their debut in the first league during the 1998–99 season.
They have since amassed 19 championship titles, ten Cups and seven Super Cups – all competition records. Sheriff has reached the group stage of the UEFA Europa League on four occasions. It became the first ever Moldovan team to reach the group stages of the UEFA Champions League in 2021.
In their first two games in this season’s Champions League group stage, Sheriff have secured two wins (one at home, one away). They are leading their group with six points. That’s three points ahead of group favorites Real Madrid and five ahead of Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk.
In Tuesday’s game in Madrid, Real did all the early pressing but were caught out 25 minutes in. Cristiano crossed for Jasurbek Yakhshiboev, whose header beat Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, putting Sheriff ahead in the score (0 – 1).
The goalscorer then pulled a shot centimeters wide, although Madrid’s Vinícius Júnior, Nacho and Karim Benzema all went close before the break. Vinícius was then brought down by Edmund Addo, giving Benzema the chance to slam in the equalizer from the penalty spot (1-1).
Madrid were unable to break through again and were stunned by Sébastien Thill’s sensational half-volley in the 90th minute (1-2).
Real Madrid’s Benzema became the first player to score in 17 successive UEFA Champions League seasons. Paris St. Germain’s Lionel Messi joined him before the night was up.
One of Madrid’s most shocking defeats
Real Madrid has now suffered one of the most stunning and shocking defeats in their gilded European history. They have suffered defeats in the past, but they were all by other great and expensive clubs. This is most likely the most humiliating defeat a historic club has had at their home field by a Champions League newcomer.
It was the David vs. Goliath theme, with Sheriff relying heavily on their Greek keeper Giorgos Athanasiadis to keep them in the game with a collection of excellent saves. Transferred to Sheriff last season from AEK Athens and has only played two matches in Champions League.
In the end it was a triumph for a Moldovan side that has never featured in the Europe’s biggest competition. Newcomer Sheriff has toppled the club that has lifted this trophy more times (12) than any other team.