Maccabi Tel Aviv won the Israel Premier League championship with a 1-0 victory over Maccabi Haifa over the weekend.
Aaron Schoenfeld’s 55th-minute goal off an Omer Atzili corner was the difference maker to win the 22nd title in club history. The championship was the fastest ever and the first to be clinched in the month of March. The yellow-and-blue now turns its sights to the State Cup semifinal matchup against Bnei Yehuda on Wednesday evening as the club will look to win the treble (Premier League, State Cup and League Cup titles) just as it did in the 2014/15 season.
Maccabi Tel Aviv owner Mitch Goldhar, who attended the game, was overjoyed by adding another championship to his growing trophy case.
“It doesn’t get any sweeter,” said Goldhar. “To have a moment when it all comes together is pure joy. I couldn’t be prouder of so many people, and especially to share the championship with the fans.”
Captain Sheran Yeini was also excited about wrapping up his fourth league championship.
“It’s great to win for the club again and we won the championship for the first time at the Netanya Stadium which is also terrific,” said Yeini. “I didn’t really care who we would have won the title against. The most important thing was to win the championship.”
Head coach Vladimir Ivic, as well, was all smiles following the contest.
“It’s amazing. We did a good job until now and we took the championship by the end of March,” said Ivic. The players deserve all the compliments.”
Ivic is the 14th coach since the establishment of the State of Israel who has led Maccabi Tel Aviv to a championship, preceded by only three foreign coaches – Oscar Garcia, Paulo Sousa and Pako Ayestaran.
If Tel Aviv doesn’t experience an extraordinary crash, it will finish the season with the largest title-winning point gap in Israeli soccer history – the current record between first and second place is 16 points, while Maccabi (72 points) now holds a 27-point advantage over Hapoel Beersheba (45 points).
The total points record for a Premier League campaign is 95 points, achieved by Maccabi Haifa in the 1993/94 season. If Maccabi Tel Aviv (22 victories, six draws and no losses) wins all of its eight remaining games it will reach 96 points, doing so in 36 games and not 39, as Haifa did.
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s last loss was against Norway’s Sarpsborg on August 23, 2018. The yellow-and-blue’s last league defeat was almost a year ago, on April 16, 2018, to Beitar Jerusalem.
This season, Maccabi Tel Aviv has beaten every other team in the league at least once, but there are only two teams that managed not to lose to Maccabi Tel Aviv twice: Hapoel Tel Aviv and Bnei Sakhnin.
Elsewhere, in a relegation battle between two foes, Beitar Jerusalem and Bnei Sakhnin played to a goalless draw at Teddy Stadium in the nation’s capital.
Beitar is six points above the relegation zone while Sakhnin is mired in last place.
Meanwhile, Hapoel Beersheba dominated Hapoel Hadera 4-1 in Netanya.
Hadera grabbed the lead in the ninth minute when Lucio put the ball into the goal off an Eliel Peretz corner, a strike that held up until the 73rd minute.
However, the visitors finally got down to work as Ben Sahar headed home the equalizer off a Maor Meliskon cross, and Beersheba took the lead three minutes later when Nigel Hasselbaink put in a Nir Zrihen rebound.
A pair of injury-time goals, by Sahar and Hasselbaink – both with their second of the contest – accounted for the remainder of the scoring.
Also, Ashdod defeated Kiryat Shmona 3-2 in the port city for a crucial three points in its battle against relegation.
Sagiv Yehezkel opened the scoring in the 15th minute when he slotted home the ball past Dziugas Bartkus for a 1-0 Ashdod lead, but Kiryat Shmona drew even 11 minutes later when Eden Shamir beat Yoav Gerafi.
In the 28th minute Ismaeel Ryan curled the ball into the Ashdod goal to give the visitors a surprise 2-1 advantage, but Ashdod found the equalizer just before the break due to a controversial penalty that Roie Gordana scored.
As time wound down, Dean David scored the winner off a Yuval Shpungin cross, allowing Ashdod to take the victory.
Bnei Yehuda and Maccabi Netanya drew 1-1 at the Moshava Stadium. Jonathan Bornstein sent a scorcher from 25 meters out that surprised Bnei Yehuda ’keeper Emilias Zubas, handing Netanya a 1-0 lead, while the hosts found the tying goal in the second half via Yuval Ashkenazi to earn Bnei Yehuda a split of the points.
Maccabi Petah Tikva hosted Hapoel Ra’anana at the Moshava Stadium and drew 1-1. Gidi Kanuk scored in the 44th minute from outside of the box, beating ’keeper Asaf Tzur to give the hosts a slim lead ahead of the break.
However, Kayes Ganem headed in a Yoav Tomer cross in the 55th minute to draw even, which is how the match concluded.
Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Haifa wrapped up Matchday 28 on Monday night, playing to a listless goalless draw at Sammy Ofer Stadium as the sides split the points.
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