Hapoel win Israeli League title

By Simon Griver and James Martin, May 17, 2010

Hapoel Tel Aviv completed a league and cup double after they were crowned Israeli Premier Division champions after a stoppage time strike from Eran Zahavi earned them a 2-1 win over Betar Jerusalem.

In the most thrilling climax to an Israeli season, Hapoel’s 10 men seal the title on goal difference from Maccabi Haifa who were denied by heroics from Bnei Yehuda keeper Ran Kadoch, formerly of Barnet. Maccabi led the table by two points going into the final round of matches but the could only draw as Hapoel clinched the title for the 13 time.

Hapoel, who won the Israel FA Cup with a 3-1 victory over Bnei Yehuda last week, will now represent Israel in the Champions League.

An IFA spokesman said: "Since 2003 we have had very predictable seasons, with the winners decided in February or March. We wanted the league to stay centre-stage, with Super Bowl-style drama - and we got it until the very end..

"Play-offs are used in all sports; look at rugby - they play-off between the top four in England. The same in all Ice Hockey leagues.

"Ratings have been extremely high in the play-off games and we also hope that the excitement of the league- at both ends- will attract greater sponsorship."

He added: "My mum is a Maccabi Haifa fan so I understand some people are upset. There will be a majority vote by representatives of our league members to decide if the format is retained for next year."

Maccabi Haifa, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Bnei Yehuda will represent Israel in the Europa League.

Last updated: 3:13pm, May 17 2010