Kiryat Shmona holds off Mac PT to take Toto Cup

Northern team claims first-ever title.

Kiryat Shmona 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Kiryat Shmona 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona claimed its first-ever title on Wednesday night, defeating Maccabi Petah Tikva 1-0 at National Stadium in Ramat Gan to lift the Toto Cup.
The Toto Cup may only be Israeli soccer’s third-most prestigious competition, but Kiryat Shmona celebrated as if it had won the league championship, which is quite understandable considering it had never taken a top-flight title of any sort before.
Kiryat Shmona was far from its best, but clinched the win in the 82nd minute thanks to Shlomi Avisdris’s goal.
“The tougher the match is, the sweeter the win,” Kiryat Shmona coach Ran Ben-Shimon said. “This may only be the third-most prestigious title, but it is still a pleasure to win.”
Petah Tikva looked to dominate from the start and created the first chance after 10 minutes.
Omer Golan squared the ball to perfection, but Omer Damari inexplicably sent his shot wide with only goalkeeper Guy Haimov to beat.
Petah Tikva continued to control the possession in the remainder of the first half, but struggled to create any scoring opportunities and failed to break the scoreless deadlock.
Six minutes after the interval, Damari was once more guilty of carelessness, shooting straight at Haimov from close range.
Kiryat Shmona looked completely helpless, leaving Petah Tikva goalkeeper Rubi Levkovich out of work.
However, when Levkovich was finally called into action, he cost his team the title.
Eight minutes from time, the young ’keeper came out for Tomer Swisa’s long ball, but completely missed his clearance, and Avisdris – who had come on as a substitute 11 minutes earlier – completed the simple task of rolling the ball into the empty net.
Avisdris also played a major role in Kiryat Shmona’s semifinal win, scoring a stoppage time equalizer against Bnei Yehuda before slotting in the decisive spot kick in the penalty shootout.
Petah Tikva sent everyone forward in the hope of sending the match into extra time, and it came awfully close in the 88th minute.
Haimov did well to keep out Roei Bakal’s header before blocking Dovev Gabay’s rebound from two meters out with a great instinctive save.
Petah Tikva continued to pressure Ben-Shimon’s men, but Kiryat Shmona held on to clinch an historic title in club history.