Maccabi Tel Aviv players celebrate with Nikola Mitrovic after he scored the team’s second goal in last night’s 2-0 win over Hapoel Tel Aviv in the derby at Bloomfield Stadium..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv capped an unprecedented season of success with a remarkable performance on Wednesday night, steamrolling Hapoel Beersheba 6-2 in the State Cup final at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa to become the first Israeli team to claim the local treble.
Maccabi won Israeli soccer’s second cup competition, the Toto Cup, earlier this season and began the week by officially clinching its third consecutive Premier League championship.
The yellow-and-blue entered the final as a favorite, but no one could have predicted what would unfold on Wednesday night.
There was little to separate the teams in four previous league meetings this season, with each side claiming one win and two of the matches ending in draws.
There was also nothing to indicate that the contest would end in a historic score-line during the early stages, with both teams reaching scoring opportunities.
Even at 2-1 to Maccabi at halftime, the match still seemed wide open. However, four goals in the first 17 minutes of the second half completed the rout with almost a third of the match still to play and gave Maccabi the biggest ever win in modern cup final history (since Israel’s independence).
Maccabi hadn’t even appeared in the cup final since 2005, but it claimed the title for a record 17th time on Wednesday, also completing its first league and cup double since 1996.
Swedish striker Rade Prica, in what was likely one of his last matches for the club, netted a hat-trick (21, 46, 52), with Yoav Ziv (28), Eran Zahavi (58) and Maharan Radi (62) also scoring for Maccabi.
“I told the players that sometimes it is difficult to achieve your goals, but we always knew what our goals were,” said Maccabi coach Pako Ayestaran, whose future at the club remains up in the air. “I told the players before the match that they can be proud of what we achieved this season regardless of the final result. I don’t know what my future at the club holds. For the time being I just want to enjoy this moment.”
Prica didn’t even think he was going to start the final.
“It’s the best game of my career,” he said.
“It’s like a dream. I can’t wish for more.” He said after the game.
Ovidiu Hoban (34) and Maor Buzaglo (57) netted goals that were of no consolation for Beersheba, which is still without a title since 1997.
“This was an especially bad day for us and we apologize,” said Beersheba coach Elisha Levy, who lost in the cup final for a fourth time.
It was clear from the start that the match would be played in open fashion and the first goal was always going to be crucial.
Beersheba’s Elyaniv Barda and Zahavi both squandered chances before Prica broke the deadlock in the 21st minute, making the most of Williams Soares’s lack of concentration.
After more than a year without a goal, Ziv made it 2-0 seven minutes later, with Beersheba’s defense once more caught napping.
Hoban’s powerful shot from the edge of the box in the 34th minute gave Beersheba some hope, but it would be quickly dashed at the start of the second half.
Just one minute after the break, Prica slotted in from close range and he completed his hat-trick six minutes later. Buzaglo’s goal in the 57th minute was quickly forgotten as it was almost immediately followed by Zahavi’s strike. Radi made it six in the 62nd minute and Maccabi fans began their celebrations in earnest.
“The team with the bigger heart ultimately wins,” said Zahavi. “We all played for each other and we played like men. I’m so happy.”
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