Maccabi TA soccer 248.88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The Avi Nimni era might have gotten off to a less than successful start, but after just three months in the job the Maccabi Tel Aviv coach already has a title to his name, a triumph he is hoping will be a sign of things to come.
Tel Aviv defeated Ashdod SC 1-0 in the Toto Cup final at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Wednesday night to claim its first title since the 2005 State Cup.
The Toto Cup is the least sought after piece of silverware in Israeli soccer, but considering that Maccabi is currently eighth in the league standings, 18 points behind leader Maccabi Haifa, the win was more than welcome.
"I hope this victory marks a new successful period for the club," Nimni said. "I'm very pleased for all the players who have finally won their first title."
Ashdod is still searching for a first trophy in club history, and after losing in the final of the Toto Cup for the fourth time in eight years, is probably thinking that day may never arrive.
"We need to once and for all break this psychological barrier," coach Yossi Mizrahi said. "There was a lot of pressure on the team to win the first trophy in club history and it took its toll."
The final, a dreary affair throughout, was decided by Yossi Shivhon's 60th minute strike.
Both teams barely registered scoring opportunities in the first hour of the encounter, and one good team move by Maccabi, which ends the competition with a NIS 1.2 million winners check, was enough to decide the match.
The only real attempt at goal in the first half fell to Tel Aviv's Haim Megrelashvili, who sent a powerful left footed effort into the side netting from the edge of the area.
The deadlock was finally broken on the hour mark after a well executed Maccabi move. Megrelashvili crossed an accurate ball for Shivhon, who struck a left-footed shot without stopping, driving the ball past the Ashdod 'keeper.
The match burst into life after the goal and within a minute Tel Aviv almost doubled its advantage.
New signing Scott Sealy released a spectacular bicycle kick from the center of the box, the 'keeper was beaten, but the post denied the striker an unforgettable goal.
Ashdod had no option but to send everyone forward in the closing minutes in search of an equalizer and only superb goalkeeping by Dragoslav Jevric kept Maccabi in front.
Four minutes from time, former Maccabi star Baruch Dego thought his header was going in, but Jevric was well-placed and kept the ball out.
Three minutes later, Dimitar Makriev found space 10 meters from goal. However, an acrobatic Jevric save denied Ashdod and Maccabi held on to clinch the trophy.