Real Kashmir FC Wednesday stunned defending champions Minerva Punjab FC in a sensational start to their maiden I-League campaign, taking the first step towards realising the beginners' dream of making the 'Paradise on Earth' a "paradise for football".
The first team from the Valley to play in the country's top-flight, Real Kashmir FC scored the game's only goal through Gnohere krizo's 73rd-minute strike, giving the rival goalkeeper no chance to stop the ball that was travelling in great speed.
While the result left coach David Robertson and his players ecstatic, the heads totting the stands at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium also applauded the visiting team, moments after it humbled the fancied opponents in their own den.
The emergence of Real Kashmir and their elevation to the I-League is the most fascinating story of Indian football in recent times. Formed three years ago, Real Kashmir last season won the second division league to get promoted into the top flight.
Living up to their coach's assertion on the eve of the game, Real Kashmir did give the holders a run for their money.
Real Kashmir had a chance to make it 2-0 four minutes after breaking the deadlock, but Minerva Punjab will be kicking themselves as they had a bright start to the second-half but failed to make their chances count.
It was a tight affair and Minerva Punjab FC paid for their profligacy in front of goal.
Minerva Punjab made two changes to their starting line-up that drew 0-0 against Churchill Brothers. Nongdamba Naorem and Manandeep Singh missed out a spot in the starting XI and they were replaced by Makan Chothe and Kouame Alexandre.
Robertson fielded his side in a 3-5-2 formation with Dharmaraj Ravanan, Mason Robertson and Loveday Okechukwu as the three defenders. Brian Mascarenhas, Bazie Armand and Danish Farooq played in the middle of the park with Aaron Katebe and Krizo starting up front.
(With inputs from agencies.)