What has been a forgone conclusion for several weeks, finally became official on Saturday night when Maccabi Tel Aviv clinched its second straight Premier League championship and a record 20th league title in club history.
Maccabi beat second-place Hapoel Beersheba 2-1 at Vasermil Stadium, with player-of-the-season Eran Zahavi (12, 31) taking his tally for the campaign to 23 goals with two first-half strikes to secure a comfortable victory.
Dovev Gabai scored a consolation goal for Beersheba from the penalty spot in the 84th minute.
The yellow-and-blue moved 13 points clear of Beersheba with three matches to play and will receive the championship shield at Bloomfield Stadium next week when it hosts Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
The battle against relegation will only be decided with the final whistle to the season, with Bnei Yehuda, Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Ramat Hasharon to enter next weekend tied on 30 points.
Only one of the three teams will survive.
Bnei Yehuda has its fate in its own hands thanks to its superior goal difference (-13) after claiming a crucial 1-0 victory at Ramat Hasharon on Saturday.
Ohad Kadusi scored the winner in the 62nd minute after Ramat Hasharon goalkeeper Itamar Nitzan parried the ball right to his feet.
Bnei Yehuda hosts Ashdod SC next week, knowing a victory should secure it another season in the Premier League.
Petah Tikva only trails Bnei Yehuda by six goals (-19) following Saturday’s 5-0 thrashing of Ashdod. However, it will likely require a Bnei Yehuda slip up against Ashdod to have any chance of maintaining its top-flight status. Petah Tikva hosts Hapoel Haifa next weekend.
Roei Dayan’s hat-trick (17, 31, 48) and goals from Oz Peretz (42) and Lidor Cohen (81) gave Petah Tikva its biggest win of the season against a lax Ashdod on Saturday.
Rock-bottom Ramat Hasharon (-31), which visits Hapoel Acre next week, will require both Bnei Yehuda and Petah Tikva to drop points in order to avoid demotion to the National League.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Acre beat Beitar Jerusalem 2-0 thanks to strikes from Hamdi Salihi (30) and Yuval Shabtai (83), while Hapoel Ra’anana defeated Hapoel Haifa 2-0 through goals by Guy Lipka (55) and Sa’ar Benbinishti (76).
Hapoel Tel Aviv maintained a fourpoint gap in the fight for fourth place after drawing 1-1 with Maccabi Haifa at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium. Sasha’s 91st-minute equalizer canceled out Alon Turgeman’s opener for Haifa after 29 seconds.
Kiryat Shmona closed to within three points of second-place Beersheba on Saturday, extending its unbeaten streak to 14 matches with a 2-0 victory over Bnei Sakhnin. Roei Kehat (36) and Weeam Amasha (72) found the back of the net for Kiryat Shmona, which faces Maccabi Netanya in the State Cup final on Wednesday.