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Season review: Israel

Published: Monday 22 June 2009, 16.16CET
Maccabi Haifa FC returned to the top of the Israeli table after a two-year absence, while State Cup success came as some consolation for last season's titlewinners Beitar Jerusalem FC.
by Ofer Ronen-Abels
Season review: Israel
Title success enriched Alon Harazi's last season with Maccabi Haifa ©AFP
Published: Monday 22 June 2009, 16.16CET

Season review: Israel

Maccabi Haifa FC returned to the top of the Israeli table after a two-year absence, while State Cup success came as some consolation for last season's titlewinners Beitar Jerusalem FC.

Maccabi Haifa FC returned to the top of the Israeli table in the final season before the Ligat ha'Al is expanded from 12 to 16 teams, while State Cup success came as some consolation for last season's titlewinners Beitar Jerusalem FC.

Champions: Maccabi Haifa FC.
The league title returned to Maccabi Haifa's trophy cabinet after a two-year absence in Elisha Levy's first season as coach. The eleventh championship in the club's history - all of them won within a 25-year period - provided further proof that Haifa remain the pre-eminent force in modern Israeli football. "Maccabi Haifa is a great club with a lot of strength and a massive fan base," Levy said.

Cup final: Beitar Jerusalem FC 2-1 Maccabi Haifa FC
First half goals from Christian Álvarez and Aviram Baruchyan saw Beitar defend the State Cup and deny their opponents the double, which the Jerusalem side had claimed last season. It was a rare moment of joy for Beitar in a season undermined by financial problems which would eventually see them withdraw from competing in UEFA club competition next season.

European places
Maccabi Haifa FC - UEFA Champions League second qualifying round.
Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC - UEFA Europa League third qualifying round.
Maccabi Netanya FC - UEFA Europa League second qualifying round.
Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv FC - UEFA Europa League first qualifying round.

Player of the Year: Vincent Enyeama (Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC)
That the winds of fate somehow blew Nigerian goalkeeper Enyeama to Israel has been the source of great celebration, with the acrobatic former Bnei Yehuda player's ability to convert as well as save penalties helping his side finish second in the league. A host of clubs from outside Israel are now said to be pursuing the 26-year-old.

One to watch: Eliran Atar (Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv FC)
Long regarded as a talent for his silky skills and eye for goal, 22-year-old striker Atar stepped up his game in 2008/09 scoring 14 league goals - including a memorable overhead scissor-kick. That effort won Goal of the Season in the end-of-year polls, while he shared the prize for Israel's top scorer.

Surprise package: Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv FC
Under Guy Luzon's guidance, Bnei Yehuda were transformed within the space of a season from a side fighting for survival to a club worthy of a European place. Making the most of a small budget with a squad of talented young local players, Bnei Yehuda finished fifth and took the European place after Beitar Jerusalem decided to withdraw.

Leading scorer: Barak Itzhaki, Beitar Jerusalem FC, Eliran Atar, Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv FC, Shimon Abu Hazira, Hapoel Petach-Tikva FC (14)

Number: 524
The new record for Israeli top-flight appearances set by Maccabi Haifa defender Alon Harazi, 38 - former Haifa team-mate Rafi Cohen, who won promotion back to the top flight with Hapoel Ramat Gan FC, may break it next season as he currently stands on 519.

Quote
"I'm delighted we managed to take the title back to Haifa after two years, but even happier with the way in which we achieved it. We scored the most goals and conceded the least, but what brings me an even greater joy is the way we fielded many youngsters, most of whom are homegrown talents."
Maccabi Haifa coach Elisha Levy celebrates winning the title.

 

Last updated: 29/06/09 14.02CET

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