Unheralded Mizoram side Aizawl FC beat Indian football giants Mohun Bagan by a solitary goal in a highly anticipated match to be within touching distance of their maiden I-League title.
Local player Zohmingliana Ralte scored the all-important goal in the 83rd minute in the penultimate round match in front of football crazy Aizawl fans at the packed Rajiv Gandhi Stadium and steered the team to the verge of creating history.
This stunning win put Aizawl on 36 points from 17 games, three more than Mohun Bagan (33 points from 17 matches), and now they need just a draw in their final league match against Shillong Lajong away from home on April 30 to bag the coveted I-League crown in their second season.
Mohun Bagan, who won their first I-League title two season's back, can still be the champions if they beat Chennai City FC at home in their final match on April 30 but they need to hope that Aizawl lose to Shillong Lajong on the same day.
It was a remarkable turnaround for Aizawl FC, coached by Khalid Jamil, who finished eighth in their debut season last year and were almost kicked out of the I-League.
If they win the I-League title on April 30, they will become the first club from Northeast India to do so.
Today's match, which saw a big build-up in a state where people are crazy about football, can be described as scrappy at best with the wet pitch following a heavy downpour before the game and a poor visibility due to the thick cloud cover over the stadium.
But the second half was much better with the cloud cover receding and the home side pressing hard for a goal with spells of domination over the visiting side.
Syrian Mahmoud Al Amenah was the best player on show as he was in the thick of things in most of the Aizawl attacks. He also took the corner which completely beat Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Debjit Majumder for diminutive Ralte (nicknamed Zoeta) to rise the highest and nod home to the roar of the supporters.
Mohun Bagan had come into the match with a psychological advantage as they had won the first-leg match against Aizawl 3-2 but the Mizoram side showed how difficult it is to beat them at their fortress as this was their eighth win in nine matches.
Aizawl started the second half with intent to force a result. Five minutes into the second half, Al Amna got the better of Eduardo Ferreira on the left before finding Jayesh Rane on the edge of the area. But Rane's shot went narrowly wide.
The 62nd minute saw Amna charging down the Mohun Bagan box after stealing the ball from Sehnaj Singh. The Syrian midfielder passed the ball to R Laldanmawia but the Mizo winger's shot was blocked by a defender.
The goal eventually came in the 83rd minute when Al Amna's kick was misjudged by goalkeeper Majumder, who was beaten on the air, and Ralte was at the perfect position to head the ball into the empty net.