Maccabi Tel Aviv crowned champions at last

Yellow-and-blue clinch first league title since 2003 with 2-0 win over Ramat Hasharon.

 Maccabi Tel Aviv and captain Shiran Yeini 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv and captain Shiran Yeini 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
The wait was excruciating, but after 10 years Maccabi Tel Aviv is the Premier League champion once again.
The most illustrious club in Israeli soccer history enjoyed little success over recent years, but Monday’s 2-0 victory over Hapoel Ramat Hasharon at National Stadium in Ramat Gan gave Maccabi an unassailable 13-point gap over Maccabi Haifa at the top of the table, securing the yellow-and-blue a record 20th championship.
Dor Micha handed Maccabi the lead after 19 minutes and Rade Prica doubled the advantage 12 minutes from time to ensure that nothing would deny Tel Aviv just its second league title since 1996.
“I’m so proud,” said Maccabi owner Mitch Goldhar. “So many people made this possible. We’ve gone through a lot to get here. This is just the fourth year of a process. Things take time and we are taking one step at a time. You are starting to see some of the results of the process.”
Maccabi coach Oscar Garcia finally dropped his cool demeanor and celebrated with his players.
“We knew the history was not favorable for Maccabi in terms of winning the league, but we worked hard and that’s the first thing you have to do,” said Oscar. “The main thing is we’ve shown a lot of stability on and off the pitch.”
Maccabi entered Monday’s encounter as a huge favorite, with Ramat Hasharon losing its previous five matches by a combined goal difference of 0-12.
The match, which was moved to the National Stadium due to police concerns that it would be dangerous to play the game at Ramat Hasharon’s small ground, developed exactly as expected, with only a sensational save by Ramat Hasharon goalkeeper Kfir Leibowitz denying Maccabi’s Micha the opener after 13 minutes.
However, Leibowitz would gift Tel Aviv the lead six minutes later, with the ‘keeper coming out for a corner but completely missing the ball, allowing Micha to fire into the back of an empty net from 20 meters out after Prica’s header was cleared off the line.
Maccabi shifted down a gear after going ahead and Ramat Hasharon had its chances to equalize, none better than the one squandered by substitute Adrian Fernandez two minutes into the second half, with the Argentinian striker firing straight at Vincent Enyeama with only the ‘keeper to beat.
Tel Aviv rarely threatened the Ramat Hasharon goal in the second half, but it made it 2-0 and clinched the win in the 78th minute.
Prica, who made an invaluable contribution to Maccabi’s campaign despite only joining in January, saw his shot fly into the back of the net thanks to a fortuitous deflection off Asael Ben-Shabat, sparking delirium among Maccabi fans and a sleepless night of celebrations for the yellow-and-blue.