Mac Haifa cup win 298.88.
(photo credit: Blake-Ezra Cole)
One down, two to go.
Maccabi Haifa secured the first part of a possible trio of titles Wednesday evening, defeating Ashdod SC 3-0 in the Toto Cup final at the national stadium in Ramat Gan.
Haifa is closing in on an unprecedented League, State Cup and Toto Cup "treble" and is on the way to gaining a place among Israeli soccer's greatest ever teams.
The greens have an eight-point lead at the top of the league and are strolling to a third straight Premier League championship. Maccabi is also in the last eight of the State Cup, a competition it hasn't won in eight years.
Maccabi dominated Ashdod throughout the match and seized the initiative from the opening whistle. Haifa was two goals up as early as the 18th minute with helpless Ashdod unable to stop the Maccabi attacks or break down its opponents' defense.
"It's important to win and we deserved the win," said Haifa coach Roni Levy after the match. "We took the lead early and I had to remind my players at the interval that they hadn't won the match yet. All in all we took our first title of the season and I'm pleased," he said.
The win also gave Haifa a welcome financial boost, with the club's earnings from the competition climbing to NIS 1.15 million following its win on Wednesday.
Ashdod desperately missed the finishing skills of its injured star striker Shai Holtzman and was clearly second best all night.
"Holtzman is a very important part of the team... The result might have been different had he played," said Israeli international and Ashdod midfielder David Revivo after the match.
But Revivo refused to blame the defeat on Holtzman's absence. "No one played well today, when you make mistakes against Maccabi Haifa you pay the price. The best team won today."
Ashdod's loss was its second in a row and its third in five seasons in the Toto Cup final, and the southern team will now have to wait at least until next season for its first ever title.
Haifa dominated the match from the start and took the lead 10 minutes into the match. Midfielder Michael Zandberg headed the ball into the path of Shlomi Arbitman who easily scored the opener.
Ashdod was unable to respond and eight minutes after scoring its first, Maccabi doubled its lead. Idan Tal crossed the ball to Roberto Colautti, who tucked in his teams second goal.
Ashdod almost cut Haifa's lead eight minutes after half time, when Moshe Ohayon's header was only denied by the crossbar.
Despite the slight scare, Maccabi continued to control the match and scored its third goal in stoppage time. Substitute Tomer Hemed was on the pitch for several moments when he turned in Lior Refaelov's rebounded shot and rounded off Haifa's clinical performance.