Maccabi Haifa clinches championship

A year after late collapse cost them the title, Greens blank K8 to take league with week to spare.

Maccabi Haifa 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Haifa 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Haifa finally lay to rest the ghosts of last season, defeating Ironi Kiryat Shmona 2-0 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Monday night to clinch a 12th Premier League title in club history and a seventh championship in 11 years.
A year and a day after only managing a draw at Bnei Yehuda in the final match of the season and seeing Hapoel Tel Aviv snatch the league title from its grasp with a stoppage-time winner at Betar Jerusalem, Haifa reestablished its dominance over Israeli soccer on Monday in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season.
Despite losing key players of the likes of Dekel Keinan, Biram Kiyal and Shlomi Arbeitman to European clubs, Haifa knew how to get results even when it wasn’t playing well at the start of the season and improved as the campaign progressed, winning 11 of its past 14 matches, including a dominant victory over Hapoel.
“This is an especially happy championship considering what happened last season,” said Haifa owner Jacob Shahar, who is the man who deserves most of the credit for the club’s incredible success over the last three decades.
“I always believed we could win the championship. Everyone was talking at the start of the season about the players that left, but I was talking about the ones that stayed.”
On the same day he was chosen as the players’ player of the season, Lior Rafaelov scored twice to give Haifa all three points when it needed just one against Kiryat Shmona, netting from the penalty spot in the 64th minute after a contentious decision by referee Liran Liani before clinching the win nine minutes later after some great build-up play by Tomer Hemed.
“After what happened last season, Shahar told us that we have to win the title back and I’m delighted we did it,” Rafaelov said.
“It was a tough season,” said coach Elisha Levy, who will hope to guide Haifa to its first league and cup double since the 1990/91 season when the Greens play Hapoel in the State Cup final next Wednesday.
“We knew what we had to do to take this title, using young players from within our youth system. No one is happier today I am.”
Tabib to become sole owner of Hap TA The ownership uncertainty at Hapoel Tel Aviv came to a surprise ending on Monday afternoon when Eli Tabib announced that he will buy-out coowner Moni Harel’s 50 percent stake in the club.
Harel offered Tabib NIS 6 million for his half on Sunday, but contrary to what was widely rumored, Tabib made the most of his prerogative under the BMBY (“buy me, buy you”) procedure and seized complete control of Hapoel by choosing to decline the proposal and instead purchase Harel’s percentage for the same amount.
“First of all I’d like to apologize to the players, coaching staff and especially the fans for the quarrel that was forced on me and the club and hurt everyone over the last year,” said Tabib, a former owner of Hapoel Kfar Saba, who officially became a co-owner at Hapoel last summer.
“Yesterday I was delivered an envelope with an offer for my stake. I had no doubts and it was clear to me that I would stay at the club. I notified Moni Harel of my decision and under our agreement I am now the sole owner of Hapoel.”