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unlikely victory How Sheriff Tiraspol, the ‘joke’ club founded by an ex-KGB agent, humiliated Real Madrid

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Sheriff Tiraspol's Sebastien Thill celebrates scoring their dramatic winner against Real Madrid

Sheriff Tiraspol's Sebastien Thill celebrates scoring their dramatic winner against Real Madrid

Sheriff Tiraspol's Sebastien Thill celebrates scoring their second goal with Dimitrios Kolovos REUTERS/Juan Medina

Sheriff Tiraspol's Sebastien Thill celebrates scoring their second goal with Dimitrios Kolovos REUTERS/Juan Medina

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Sheriff Tiraspol's Sebastien Thill celebrates scoring their dramatic winner against Real Madrid

Real Madrid suffered one of the biggest shocks in Champions League history on Tuesday when they were beaten at home by rank outsiders Sheriff Tiraspol – who were knocked out of the Europa League by Dundalk 12 months ago

Luxembourg midfielder Sebastien Thill – an unused sub in his country’s shock victory over Ireland at the Aviva Stadium – scored an outstanding late half-volley to snatch an unlikely victory for the Moldovan side, who are playing in the group stage for the first time.

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti struggled to explain how his side were beaten 2-1, after having 67 per cent of the possession and 30 shots on goal to the visitors’ 11.

Sheriff went ahead against the 13-times European champions in the 25th minute with a header from Uzbek midfielder Jasurbek Yakhshiboev, who narrowly later missed a chance to double the visitors’ lead.

Real dominated the play in both halves but needed a penalty to draw level. Karim Benzema buried his spot-kick in the top corner in the 65th minute after Vinicius Jr was felled and awarded a penalty following a Var review, having been denied a after a previous review moments earlier.

Real substitute Luka Jovic spurned a great chance to win it for the hosts but Sheriff quickly got down the other end and following a throw-in the ball fell to Luxembourg midfielder Thill, who unleashed a lethal shot into the top corner.

“Everything went well for them while everything we did turned out badly,” Ancelotti said. “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.

“The small details cost us the game and we should learn from that in the future. But this was a defeat we did not deserve.”

Who are Sheriff?

Sheriff, from the unrecognised breakaway Moldovan state of Transnistria, came through four rounds of qualifying to become the first Moldovan team to play in the group phase of Europe’s elite club competition.

The club was founded in 1997 and has dominated domestically in its 24-year existence, winning the Moldovan championship 19 times and 10 Moldova Cups. They are named after the Sheriff corporation which was formed in 1993 after the Soviet Union’s break-up and is now the second largest business in Transnistria, according to Goal.

Moldovan political expert Mihai Isac has alleged to Euronews that local oligarch Viktor Gushan who owns the corporation and club “is a former military and KGB man”.

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The football team’s Sheriff Stadium was completed in 2002 and cost around £150m. Only one other club in Moldova owns its own facilities so Sheriff has a commanding level of superiority over its national rivals.

Around half of the population of Transnistria have Russian citizenship and its government is close to Moscow, so the football club’s success is allegedly “a considerable PR impulse in this region”, Isac claimed.

He added: “The football club is involved in different actions designed to promote the relations between Transnistria and Russia. Sheriff’s conglomerate controls de facto all the region, sometimes nicknamed the Republic of Sheriff.”

Gushan reportedly also controls Sheriff’s holding company, which owns a number of important businesses in the region, ranging from supermarkets, gas stations, caviar, textiles to communication and cryptocurrency.

Who is Sheriff’s star man?

Adama Traore. No, not the one that plays for Wolves. This Traore is a Mali international who had nine goals in 16 games going into the match.

Who is their coach?

Yuriy Vernydub. The 55-year-old has managed the club since December 2020 and lost just two matches in his tenure.

Who is their record signing?

Marko Markovski, who was signed for £900,000 from Skoda Xanthi in 2012. But he lasted just seven months before being sent out on loan. In August 2014, his contract was ended.


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