Paderborn - There was a tremendous sense of achievement in the SC Paderborn 07 camp following their first ever taste of Bundesliga football on Sunday afternoon.
Andre Breitenreiter's plucky underdogs pushed the experienced top-flight heads of 1. FSV Mainz 05 all the way on Matchday 1, with only a stoppage-time penalty from South Korean international Ja-Cheol Koo denying the Bundesliga abecedarians a famous win on the opening weekend of the new campaign.
"I'm really proud of how the lads performed," enthused Paderborn's effervescent head coach. "They ran their hearts out, were resolute and showed no fear. We definitely deserved to walk away with all three points and can all be incredibly proud. We should have kept hold of the ball better in injury time, but the performance still gives us something to build on."
As Breitenreiter was only too happy to remind the assembled press after the game, Paderborn showcased all the dogged qualities typical of a promoted side. The 53rd club to grace the Bundesliga since its foundation, battling tooth and nail at the smallest ground in the German top-flight: all-in-all it was an occasion that would have forced a smile from even the most poker-faced of individuals.
"It was such a wonderful experience to run out in the Bundesliga," explained Paderborn midfielder Daniel Brückner. "It's a shame we couldn't come away from what was a great game with the three points. Over the course of the 90 minutes we were the better side and created the better opportunities."
One man who seized his chance was Elias Kachunga. The 22-year-old showed the finish of a seasoned professional to bring his side level in the first half, and now has his sights trained on Saturday's trip to Bundesliga ever-presents Hamburger SV. "We want to play well against Hamburg," he explained. "We're good enough to compete, but we're still learning."
The circumstances leading up to Mainz's equaliser corroborate Kachunga's claims. Under siege and part-shouldering the weight of expectation, Paderborn's goal-scoring captain Uwe Hünemeier took the bait hook, line and sinker. Shinji Okazaki went to ground in the box, the referee pointed to the spot and the rest, as they say, is history.
Needless to say, with only one down and another trying 33 Bundesliga assignments still to go, avoiding the same fate that befell the likes of VfB Leipzig (1994) and SSV Ulm 1846 (2000) remains top of the Rhineland club's list of priorities. Both made it to the promised land one year, only to return to the second tier on the back of Matchday 1 home draws the next. Ominously, they haven't been back since.