Until the visit of Georgios Athanasiadis (Greece, 28 years old), no goalkeeper had left the Bernabéu in the Champions League so well after a bombing of such proportions. The Tiraspol Sheriff’s goalkeeper, in the exotic Moldovan Transnistria, saw Real Madrid shoot him 31 times, cross his area 29 and throw 13 corners at him, a siege on all roads according to Opta records. The Greek, loaned this season to the rarest debutant in the European Cup by AEK Athens in exchange for 250,000 euros, stopped all the shots that were on target: 11 saves of all kinds.
One even seemed to have knocked him out. In the 75th minute, with 1-1 on the scoreboard, Luka Modric blew the ball off his head almost at point-blank range from the edge of the small area. Athanasiadis was lying on the grass and the Sheriff’s medical services, the team founded by a former KGB agent, came to revive him with liters of water, cold and an inhaler that brought him half a second and finished awakening him as if they had restarted a machine.
The last goalkeeper who had racked up more saves than him on a European visit to the Bernabéu was Keylor Navas in November 2019 with Paris Saint-Germain, the night Meunier smashed Hazard’s ankle. He stopped 11 of the 13 shots he received on goal in play, in a game that ended tied (2-2). According to the records of Alexis Martín-Tamayo, Mr. Chip, no visiting goalkeeper has ever won a Champions League match at the Bernabéu with more saves than Athanasiadis. His team won 1-2. Those closest were Dida, who stopped eight shots with Milan in 2009 and CSKA’s Akinfeev, also with eight in 2018.
Real Madrid’s desperation was summed up by its coach, Carlo Ancelotti: “Everything went well for them and everything went wrong for us,” he said. “We have had so many opportunities. You could be finer in the last 30 meters, but it is difficult to explain this defeat by the game played ”. Nor was Casemiro able to decipher the hit he had just suffered: “This is football. A team that shoots more than twenty times and plays well. The other has shot twice and has scored two goals, “he said.
Ancelotti hardly tried to find technical explanations for the European slap: “I try to be objective in evaluating the game and you can say that we have had bad luck,” he said. “We have had pressure, we have shot on goal. Sometimes there is bad luck in games, like others there is luck ”.
In this line of almost paranormal phenomena that accumulate on a stadium turned upside down by the works and without football for a year and a half, more than any in the world after the pandemic, there is another strange fact: Real Madrid has only won one of its last seven European games at the Bernabéu, 6-0 at Galatasaray a couple of weeks before Keylor Navas’ exhibition. The rest are a draw (2-2 against Bruges with Courtois dizzy and substituted at half-time) and five defeats, against CSKA, Ajax, Manchester City and the Sheriff. The last two draw a suggestive path: from the opulent club-state designed by Pep Guardiola, to the dark product of a region in a post-Soviet limbo whose door is guarded by an exiled Greek who left Chamartín with the trophy for the best player of the match. And some shock to the skull. He only managed to beat it, and from a penalty, Benzema, who was placed as the fourth highest scorer in the history of the European Cup, with 72 goals.