Girona claimed a stunning 2-1 victory over Real Madrid to deal a major blow to La Liga champions’ hopes of retaining their title. Although it is still early in the season, Zinedine Zidane’s side already have eight points to make up on Barcelona and are four points behind Valencia.

Few would have seen a hiccup coming at Barcelona’s Catalan neighbours Girona, playing in the top flight for the first time. This is by far the biggest result in the minnows’ history and will no doubt be celebrated wildly across Catalonia given the political backdrop.

Despite security concerns before the Spanish capital team’s visit to the region, which has been fighting for its independence from Spain, there were no major incidents before, during or after the game in Girona, a city filled with separatist sentiment just north of Barcelona. Several pro-independence flags were on display at the small Montilivi Stadium, and the crowd sang “freedom” chants, but nothing disrupted the match.

This was no smash-and-grab raid either, with Girona twice hitting the post in the first half and unlucky to be behind to an Isco breakaway goal. They turned the tables with two goals in four minutes early in the second half from Cristhian Stuani and Portu and withstood the inevitable Real salvo with relative comfort.

“We fully deserved it,” said the Girona coach, Pablo Machín. “If you’d said to me three years ago the fans would leave singing after beating Real Madrid I’d have said you were crazy.”

Girona fans hold pro-independence Catalan flags as others hold up placards to form a mosaic. Photograph: Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

The Guardian