Karim Benzema’s penalty was not enough to prevent Real Madrid from suffering an embarrassing Champions League defeat on Tuesday as FC minnow Sheriff Tiraspol won 2-1 at the Bernabeu.
Madrid had the best chances in the first half – Vinicius Jr. blocked a shot, Benzema’s free kick was ruled out by goalkeeper Georgios Athanasiadis and Fede Valverde shot off target – before Sheriff took the lead with 25 minutes into the game. Forward Jasurbek Yakhshiboev was left unmarked to lead Cristiano’s cross past Thibaut Courtois. Then Miguel Gutierrez, Vinicius Jr., Eden Hazard, Benzema and Casemiro all came closer as Madrid tried to equalize.
After half-time, Hazard tested Athanasiadis with a low shot before Vinicius Jr. won a penalty which Benzema converted. Sheriff’s Bruno had a goal ruled out for offside and Madrid substitutes Rodrygo Goes and Luka Jovic both missed big chances before Sebastien Thill scored a spectacular late-in-game goal with a thunderous shot from outside the surface in the top corner.
The sheriff wasn’t the most glamorous opponent but, make no mistake, it was a big game for Real Madrid: the first Champions League game at the Bernabeu since February 2020. The identity of the club is so linked to the success of the Champions League that the return of Europe’s premier club competition to this stadium after more than 18 months of closed-door matches at Valdebebas has proven to be a great opportunity, whatever the outcome. in the field.
It was also a night made for Hazard to show that he is finally on the verge of being the player he once was again: a home game against beatable opposition, taking on Benzema, with the freedom to move and play. space to operate. In all fairness, he was Madrid’s best, most proactive player until he was pulled; he just didn’t reach the goal his performance deserved.
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Real Madrid have suffered several Champions League group stage mishaps in recent years – draws or losses in meetings with Shakhtar Donetsk, Club Brugge, CSKA Moscow and Legia Warsaw come to me. ‘mind – and that was the last shock, and perhaps the biggest, to add to this long list. Of course, most ultimately didn’t matter, as Madrid never failed to advance to the group stage.
Madrid’s defense will be in the spotlight again here, having conceded twice too easily. For the first goal, Sheriff Cristiano’s left-back had plenty of time to cross, and Yakhshiboev couldn’t believe the space he had to confidently pass Courtois. It was a goal that resonated across Europe, as did Thill’s spectacular winner. Not a good look for Carlo Ancelotti’s team.
Manager score out of 10
6 – Ancelotti made three changes from the side that drew 0-0 with Villarreal this weekend, with Gutierrez at left-back, Camavinga replacing Luka Modric in midfield and Hazard behind Benzema. The first half saw the team create plenty of chances, but were punished by another defensive error.
The coach made a decisive quadruple change – predicted at 1-0 but executed just after Benzema’s equalizer – removing both full-backs and introducing Modric, Toni Kroos, Rodrygo and Jovic. It seemed to have worked before another gap saw them concede again.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 5 – Well beaten for both goals. A poor breakout attempt almost gave the sheriff another in the first half.
DF Nacho, 7 – Position changed again, this time from left to right. Could have scored in the first half when his point blank header flew away. Has advanced well at the back but is taken in defense.
DF David Alaba, 5 – His set piece delivery is useful, with decent free kick deliveries here in both halves. Was very disappointed with the space given to Yakhshiboev to lead Sheriff in the lead.
DF Eder Militao, 6 – Headed wide in the second half and could have scored with a shot later as Madrid pushed for the winner.
DF Miguel Gutierrez, 5 – I fired a shot in the first half over the bar. Still raw talent and looks better in the future than in defense. Taken out of position for the sheriff’s goal.
MF Casemiro, 6 – He sometimes seemed frustrated in the first half and received a yellow card. Took off as Madrid looked to attack.
MF Fede Valverde, 7 – Restored to a more familiar midfielder role after a misguided full-back experience this weekend. Seems more and more comfortable on the right side. In the short to medium term, that should be its position.
MF Eduardo Camavinga, 6 – Seemed unfazed as he made his maiden Champions League start for Real Madrid (unsurprisingly, considering he started in that competition for Rennes a year ago), but hasn’t excelled either. A nice touch in the first half to beat a defender inside the box, but that was it.
FW Eden Hazard, 7 – Probably the liveliest player in Madrid. A good early pass found Valverde in space; he combined very well with Benzema and tested goalkeeper Athanasiadis on either side of the half.
FW Vinicius Junior, 7 years old – Didn’t quite make his right decisions in the first half, taking too much time on an early shot and later floating a harmless effort wide. Much better in the second half, winning the penalty which saw Madrid equalize and then have a saved shot.
FW Karim Benzema, 7 years old – Had a free kick saved and completed a wide shot later in the first half. His second-half penalty saw him edging Raul with 72 goals to become the fourth all-time top scorer in this competition behind Lewandowski, Messi and Ronaldo.
MF Luka Modric, 7 – Could have scored, but his shot was blocked by Athanasiadis’ header.
MF Toni Kroos, 7 years old – His first minutes this season, returning from an embarrassing groin injury that left him playing despite the pain last year.
FW Rodrygo, 7 – Involved in a nice move to the right that was just missing one last ball, but really should have buried his luck.
FW Luka Jovic, 6 years old – His touch let him down while trying to drop the ball in front of goal shortly after coming on.