Real Madrid made history on Tuesday evening, but for all the wrong reasons. For the first time in the club’s long illustrious history, Real Madrid lost to a Moldovan team and lost to a Moldovan team at the Santiago Bernabeu as part of the UEFA Champions League. Many have called the shock defeat the biggest upset in the history of the competition. Despite the less glamourous reputation of their opponents, Carlo Ancelotti implemented very few rotations. The main surprise was the midfield: three high energy ball winners — Casemiro, Camavinga, and Valverde — rather than any creative, incisive passers or controllers, were selected. The lack of control in midfield, the disjointed press, some individual errors, as well as just plain old bad luck led to a miracle victory for Sheriff.
Full match player ratings below:
Thibaut Courtois—6: Had no fault in the goals, but nearly gifted a goal to Sheriff after Real Madrid had already conceded one.
Nacho—6: From center back to left back to right back — Nacho has been asked to plug every whole in the defense. Some criticism for failing to close down Sheriff left back Cristiano quick enough on the opening goal.
Militao—6.5: Played well when defending in isolated scenarios. Team’s defensive issues stem from a systemic pressing problem rather than a center back problem. Only criticism would be that both he and Alaba need to push the backline higher and close the gaps between the lines when the team presses.
David Alaba—7: Again like Militao, performed well on defense, but was put in problematic situations due to the disjointed press. Stepped up late on the first goal conceded after a domino effect of Hazard stepping late and then Camavinga stepping late. Still managed 2 key passes from center back and completed 6/6 long balls.
Miguel—4: Failed to converge centrally when Alaba stepped up to press prior to Sheriff’s first goal and then failed to recognize the urgency required in getting back to prevent Yakshiboev’s free header.
Casemiro—4: Another poor game from Casemiro — the new pressing system oftentimes has Casemiro stepping all the way out to the opposition’s box. This is now a regular occurrence and it’s impacting the Brazilian’s game.
Camavinga—6: Difficult to pinpoint Carlo’s envisioned role for the French midfielder as he was all over the place. Sometimes he was the deepest midfielder, other times the highest. He roamed with a lot of fluidity, but his vertical passing still needs work.
Fede Valverde—7: A bright spot from this match, Fede came close to scoring on a couple of occasions. One shot was deflected off the cross bar and one forced Sheriff goalkeeper, Giorgos, into a great save to prevent an upper 90 finish.
Vinicius JR—7: 4 Key passes, 3 completed dribbles, a “nearly-goal” in the first half, Vinicius was a big part of the play in the final third. His finishing has regressed from the early season highs, but his ability to create danger has sustained. Drew the penalty for the equalizing goal with a brilliant “elastico” inside the box. The one black mark in his book will be due to the game-winning goal from Sheriff. Opted to double down on Alaba’s mark from the throw-in, leaving Bruno free and forcing Modric to step over, which then resulted in Thill being free at the top of the box for his volley.
Eden Hazard—6: The Belgian had “moments” in this match, but continues to look so far away from the Chelsea version of Hazard. Drew three fouls within the first half, had a couple of shots on target, connected well with Benzema, but never really put his stamp on the match. The first goal conceded stemmed from some poor pressing and cover shadowing on Hazard’s behalf.
Karim Benzema—6.5: Scored the equalizer with a well-taken penalty. Managed 3 key passes and peppered the Sheriff net with shots, but just couldn’t find a goal from open play.
Rodrygo Goes—7: Once again, a positive impact off the bench. Curled in the cross that Jovic nearly scored and had a big opportunity himself after a Vinicius cut back.
Luka Jovic—5: The poor man is cursed. Had a golden opportunity to win the game for Real Madrid and somehow his volley was blocked. Sheriff then went immediately down the other way and scored.
Luka Modric—7: Along with the other four substitutes, tried to turn the match around, but the game-winning goal from Sheriff in the 89th minute was a dagger to the heart.
Toni Kroos—7: The German did not miss a step in his comeback. Looked like his usual self completed 5 of 6 long balls, 91% pass accuracy from 37 passes, and plenty involvement (49 touches) in just 24 minutes. Tried to help Madrid turn the tide of the match, but it wasn’t enough.