Sheriff's victory over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu is symbolic, as it represents a significant reward for those who come from lesser footballing nations. This is an extraordinary case of a team from a country with no sporting tradition, Moldova, in a part of the country that wants to break away, but which, while remaining within it, consoles itself by winning the domestic league more times than not. They reached the Champions League group stages after coming through four qualifying rounds, the last two against Red Star Belgrade and Dinamo Zagreb. They then made their Champions League debut by beating Shakhtar Donetsk, grabbed all three points at the Bernabéu and now lead the group.
Sheriff mix it with the big boys
Let's not underestimate Madrid's effort, who although they were half-hearted for the first half hour, then pressed and pressed. They came up against two rock-solid centre-backs and a superb goalkeeper, Athanasiadis, from Greece, who put in a goalkeeping exhibition on the night. He could only be beaten by a superb Karim Benzema penalty. If Madrid can't be criticised in attack, they can be criticised in defence. Sheriff scored three goals, one was disallowed, and rightly so. Yakhshiboev, scorer of the first goal, was then a whisker away from scoring a second.
What was striking about Sheriff was that they were not overwhelmed at the back, even though there were spells when Madrid went gung ho. They played like an experienced team, who are no strangers to this wonderful competition. Sheriff crowned their victory with a super strike by Thill late on. On a day of great matches (Milan-Atlético, PSG-City and Porto-Liverpool), the real winner on a fine European evening was the new boys Sheriff.