Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC are revelling in their third consecutive Israeli Premier League crown after downing closest rivals Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC 2-1 to put themselves out of reach with two games to go.
Hapoel Kiryat Shmona needed a win to give themselves a realistic chance of catching the leaders and they started well, with Roi Kehat finding the net from an Ofir Mizrachi corner after 11 minutes. The hosts kept their calm and levelled before the break, however, when Rade Prica headed in a Yoav Ziv cross. Maharan Radi then pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the area to spark euphoria among the crowd with 26 minutes remaining.
Israel's most successful team, Maccabi Tel-Aviv held firm thereafter to clinch their 22nd championship overall, with Pako Ayestarán leading them over the line after he replaced Óscar García at the start of the campaign.
"I'm pleased with what we did this year and I want to enjoy this as much as I can," said Ayestarán, whose team face Hapoel Beer Sheva FC in the State Cup final on Wednesday, having already lifted the Toto Cup earlier this season. "I feel happiness, but we still have one more title to take so there's no time for celebration or excitement."
"There's a great feeling of satisfaction after a very hard season," added general manager Jordi Cruyff, who is now looking forward to a tilt at UEFA Champions League qualifying next term. "We want to take the next step in Europe now."
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