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Season review: Israel

Published: Sunday 30 June 2013, 12.21CET
Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC clinched a first title in ten years and a 19th crown in the club's history, while Hapoel Ramat Gan FC experienced cup joy and relegation in the same campaign.
by Boaz Goren
from Tel Aviv
Season review: Israel
Maccabi Tel-Aviv's supporters had plenty to cheer in 2012/13 ©Getty Images
Published: Sunday 30 June 2013, 12.21CET

Season review: Israel

Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC clinched a first title in ten years and a 19th crown in the club's history, while Hapoel Ramat Gan FC experienced cup joy and relegation in the same campaign.

Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC never looked back after beating city rivals Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv FC deep into added time in February, and the club went on to eventually clinch their 19th title. It was also a season to remember for all kinds of reasons for Hapoel Ramat Gan FC who, similarly to Wigan Athletic FC in England, were relegated but won their major domestic cup in the same season.

Champions: Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC
Maccabi Tel-Aviv ended their ten-year wait for the league title and claimed the club’s 19th crown with four games to spare before eventually finishing 13 points clear at the summit. "We won the title in our first year here," said general manger Jordi Cruyff, who was brought to Israel by Canadian owner Mitch Goldhar along with coach Óscar García. "We'll try to build on this success and lead the team to the biggest stage of European football, the Champions League."

Cup final: Hapoel Ramat Gan FC 1-1 Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC (aet, Ramat Gan win 4-2 on penalties)
Relegated Ramat Gan consoled themselves with only the club's second cup triumph exactly a decade after clinching their first with the same coach, Eli Cohen. Shimon Abuhazira opened the scoring for 2011/12 league champions Kiryat Shmona, but Omer Buxanboim – a cup winner in 2003 – equalised to take the final into extra time and then penalties. In the ensuing shoot-out, Israeli Under-21 international Israel Zaguri converted the winning spot kick. "I didn't believe we could do it; we only wanted to survive," said Cohen. "Our main goal was not achieved, but this is a big consolation for us. We finish a bitter year on a high."

European places*
Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC - UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
Hapoel Ramat Gan FC - UEFA Europa third qualifying round
Maccabi Haifa FC - UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC - UEFA Europa League second qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Eliran Atar (Maccabi Tel Aviv FC)
"It was my last my last chance to achieve what I wanted," said Atar after scoring 22 times to finish as league top scorer and a crowd favourite at Bloomfield Stadium. The fans did not tire of chanting his name three times after every goal and they will miss the 26-year-old as he departs for pastures new in France with Ligue 1 side Stade de Reims.

One to watch: Ofir Krieff (Beitar Jerusalem FC)
Although it was not the best of seasons for the capital club, Krieff seized his chance in midfield and was rewarded with a place in Guy Luzon's squad for the UEFA European Under-21 Championship on home soil. The 22-year-old proved his worth at the finals, scoring the winning goal against England in the hosts' final game.

Surprise package: Maccabi Haifa FC
A glance at the final standings might make it hard to understand why Maccabi Haifa were this season's surprise package, but the Greens had a good year. They began the campaign with fan favourite Reuven Atar at the helm, but after seven points from a possible 27, former defender Arik Benado was promoted from his role in charge of the youth team to take the reins. A fine run of form saw the Haifa club climb from bottom of the league to clinch second place and a European berth.

Leading scorer: Eliran Atar, Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC (22)

Relegated: Hapoel Ramat Gan FC, Maccabi Netanya FC

Promoted: Maccabi Petah-Tikva FC, Hapoel Ra'anana FC

Number: 10
It was exactly a decade ago, in 2002/2003, that Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Hapoel Ramat Gan won the league and cup respectively. Ten years on, the two clubs repeated the feat.

Quote
"I know that Hapoel Akko FC is not a sexy name like Beitar Jerusalem FC, Bnei Sakhnin FC or Bar Refaeli."
Hapoel Akko coach Yuval Naim put his side's season into perspective after avoiding relegation.

Last updated: 30/06/13 16.56CET

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