By Ori Lewis
TEL AVIV May 25 Holders Hapoel Tel Aviv beat
league champions Maccabi Haifa 1-0 to retain the Israeli State
Cup on Wednesday.
Striker Salim Toama scored the only goal in the second
minute when he blasted a low, angled shot from 18 metres that
skimmed the surface and beat Maccabi keeper Nir Davidovich.
Haifa dominated most of the possession during a largely
disappointing final between Israel's two best teams over the
past decade in front of 38,000 fans, but they rarely threatened
Nigerian international goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.
Haifa were seeking a second league and cup double 20 years
after their first success but were unable to find a finishing
touch to beat a strong Hapoel defence.
Haifa's defensive frailties almost saw them let in a second
goal three minutes after the first when striker Ben Sahar shot
wide. Veteran defender and captain Walid Badir then rattled
Haifa's crossbar early in the second half and Toto Tamuz should
have put the match beyond Haifa's reach near the end.
The victory was a watershed for Hapoel who are expected to
revamp their playing staff next season, as coach Eli Guttman and
many players appear set to leave the club, partly as a result of
a financial dispute between the club's two main backers.
Haifa will play in the qualifying rounds of next season's
Champions League and Hapoel will play in the Europa League
(Editing by Martyn Herman; To query or comment on this story