JERUSALEM May 16 Maccabi Haifa won the Israeli
league title with a game to spare after beating Hapoel Kiryat
Shmona 2-0 on Monday, a result that put them six points clear of
Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Haifa's steady form in the 16-team Premier League secured a
12th title for the club from Israel's northern port city who
along with Hapoel have consistenty been one the country's top
sides over the past three decades.
Compared with previous championships when they totally
dominated their opponents, Haifa did not always produce
sparkling performances this season but no other team could match
A capacity 15,000 crowd at Haifa's Kiryat Eliezer Stadium
cheered the victory and witnessed a fireworks display from their
seats, refraining from the pitch invasions that have been a
regular feature of championship celebrations in recent years.
Haifa needed one point to secure the title and, after a
lacklustre first half, attacking midfielder Lior Refaelov scored
with a 63rd-minute penalty and struck again 10 minutes later.
Haifa can complete the double when they play Hapoel Tel Aviv
in the State Cup final next week, a first-ever meeting between
the sides in the competition.
Haifa, Israel's first representatives in the Champions
League group stages in 2002, will play in the latter stages of
the competition's qualifying rounds aiming to reach the group
stage for the third time.
(Editing by Ed Osmond; To query or comment on this story email