Mac TA stars the clear cream of the crop

Beitar’s Rikan the only non- yellow-and-blue or green to make All-Premier League team.

Taleb Tawatha soccer 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger and Adi Avishai)
Taleb Tawatha soccer 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger and Adi Avishai)
The 2012/13 Premier League season officially came to a close on Monday night with Bnei Yehuda’s 3-0 win over champion Maccabi Tel Aviv.
The yellow-and-blue already clinched a record 20th league title, its first after 10 years, one month ago with four matches still to play, so it is only natural that Maccabi’s players also dominated this season’s All-Premier League team of the year.
Goalkeeper: Bojan Saranov, Maccabi Haifa – The 25-year-old Serbian didn’t make his first start of the season until the eighth match of the campaign, with then Haifa coach Reuven Atar even preferring substitute ‘keeper Amir Edri to Saranov after Nir Davidovich went down injured. However, Saranov became a staple in Haifa’s starting lineup once Arik Benado replaced Atar and ended the season with the lowest goal-tomatch ratio among the league’s goalkeepers.
Right back: Shiran Yeini, Maccabi Tel Aviv – Israeli soccer’s working class hero, Yeini captained Maccabi to the title by example. The versatility of the 26-year-old, who started in all but three of Maccabi’s league matches, was crucial to the yellow-and-blue’s triumph, with Yeini playing across the team’s backline as well as in the midfield. Yeini thrived on doing the team’s dirty work which often goes unnoticed. However, he got the honor he deserved when he lifted Maccabi’s first championship shield since 2003.
Left back: Taleb Tawatha, Maccabi Haifa – After making his breakthrough two seasons ago, the 20-yearold’s improvement seemed to stall in 2011/12. However, despite struggling for fitness, the Bedouin from Jisr az- Zarqa took another significant step to realizing his extraordinary potential this season and is expected to be one of the stars of the under-21 national team in next month’s European Championships in Israel.
Central Defender: Eitan Tibi, Maccabi Tel Aviv – Last season’s champion Ironi Kiryat Shmona refused to release Tibi to Maccabi Tel Aviv in the summer and it knew exactly why. An arbitrator ultimately ruled that the 25-year-old Israel international will be able to move to Maccabi Tel Aviv for just 350,000 euro and he immediately became the anchor of the yellow- and-blue’s defense. He started every league match he was available for and cemented his place in the national team after winning his second straight championship.
Central Defender: Dekel Keinan, Maccabi Haifa – After two unsuccessful years in England where he made little impression at Blackpool, Cardiff City, Crystal Palace and Bristol City, the 28-year-old returned to Haifa and helped settle the team after its dismal start to the season. Keinan initially looked rusty, but he soon regained top form and his leadership was crucial to Haifa’s revival.

Right Midfielder: Hen Ezra
, Maccabi Haifa – There has never been any doubt regarding Ezra’s talent, but this season he finally proved that he has the full package to shine at a top club.
The 24-year-old made his breakthrough at Maccabi Netanya last season and led the league in assists this term (13) while also scoring nine goals for the Greens.
Central Midfielder: Maharan Radi, Maccabi Tel Aviv – The journeyman waited for over a decade to get a chance at a big club and he made the most of the opportunity this season.
The 30-year-old, who failed to land a place in Maccabi’s senior squad after coming through its youth department, started in 27 straight matches to begin the season before injury ended his streak. He finished the campaign with eight goals and 11 assists and became a regular starter for the blue-and-white after finally making his debut for Israel at the age of 30.
Central Midfielder: Gal Alberman, Maccabi Tel Aviv – The 30-yearold was consistency personified this season. Alberman failed to score a single goal in 2012/13 and registered just one assist, but the stats don’t do the veteran justice. Alberman helped Beitar Jerusalem to two consecutive championships in 2007-08 and he brought that experience to Maccabi, becoming the foundation to its midfield over the past three years.
Left Midfielder: Avi Rikan, Beitar Jerusalem – Beitar will want to quickly forget about the past season after only avoiding relegation in the last week of the campaign. However, Jerusalem would have been far worse off had the 24-year-old not exploded onto the scene. Rikan was handed the reins by coach Eli Cohen and finished the season with 11 goals. The ultimate accolade to Rikan’s performance this season is the fact that he has ignited a bidding war between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa for his services next season.
Striker: Eliran Atar, Maccabi Tel Aviv – At one stage, the 25-year-old was on course to break Nisim Elmalich’s record of 30 goals in a season set in the 1954/55 campaign.
Atar ended up finishing the season with a league-best 22 goals after scoring 21 times in his first 23 appearances.
Nevertheless, he still found ways to contribute to the team even when he didn’t find the back of the net, displaying maturity he desperately lacked in previous years.
Striker: Rade Prica, Maccabi Tel Aviv – The Swede only joined Maccabi in the January transfer window when the yellow-and-blue was already leading the standings. However, the 32-year-old, who is the only player to have won the league championship in the three Scandinavian countries – Sweden, Denmark and Norway, gave Maccabi a decisive boost down the home stretch, eventually scoring eight goals in 18 matches.