For Sébastien Thill, it runs in the family to have a sense for the spectacular. His stunning winner at the Bernabeu announced Moldovan minnows Sheriff Tiraspol to the world but his father can lay claim to a more audacious goal.
Serge Thill, while playing for Luxembourg club CS Grevenmacher in 1997, took advantage of a recent rule change to allow goals direct from kick-off. With the first kick of a match against Avenir Beggen he sent the ball high into the air and under the crossbar of his opponents’ goalkeeper.
His son was only a toddler at the time but would be destined for a life in sport. His mother, Nathalie, was a multi-disciplined athlete for Luxembourg and a footballer. Thill Jr and his two younger brothers Olivier and Vinent would eventually represent their country at football.
The goal on Tuesday night against Real Madrid was a beautifully struck half-volley that arrowed into Thibaut Courtois’ top corner. The look on David Alaba’s face summed up the disbelief at the 13-time European Champions being defeated by Sheriff. After defeating Shakhtar Donetsk, they are within touching distance of the knockout stages.
Thill’s brother Vincent went to French club Metz as a youngster, following in the footsteps of Miralem Pjanić who also played for Metz and Luxembourg youth teams before representing Bosnia and Herzegovina in senior international football. But the eldest of the Thill brothers has played the bulk of his career in his homeland with Progrès Niederkorn.
He has been in the headlines in the Europa League when he scored against Rangers in 2017 and helped inflict a defeat described by the BBC as “one of their worst ever result”. Thill’s goal sealed the win with the club’s third goal in European football.
He then went on loan to Tambov in Russia before Sheriff secured a one-and-a-half season deal in January with an option to buy.
Perhaps being part of Champions League folklore was meant to be for the 27-year-old, whose extensive tattoo work on his body includes a picture of himself dreaming of Europe’s top prize and an image of him thinking about “big ears”.
To score such a perfect goal, leaving Real with no time to stage a comeback, may not put Sheriff’s name on the trophy but was one of the competition’s biggest triumphs.
“It’s the best and most important goal of my career, that’s for sure,” said Thill last night. “We’re so happy. We played a really good game. The side were so brave with how we played and luckily enough I was able to score a bit of a stunner.”