nishlis cup
Dolev Nishlis, Radio Haifa announcer and friend of Prozdor, posing with the State Cup trophy

Maccabi Tel Aviv’s hopes of salvaging one trophy from their 2015-16 campaign were dashed on Tuesday evening in Jerusalem, as Maccabi Haifa snatched a 1:0 State Cup victory from last year’s treble holders to lift the silverware and end an 18-year drought in Israel’s national cup competition.

With Hapoel Beer Sheva claiming the league championship this season for the first time in 40 years (please read this article to learn more about that amazing story) and Maccabi Petach Tikvah grabbing the Toto Cup, the State Cup was Maccabi Tel Aviv’s last shot for glory. Following their 6:0 demolition of the Greens over the weekend in the final game of league season, Tel Aviv entered the cup final at Teddy Stadium brimming with confidence.

The yarokim had something else in mind entirely.

With a plucky display of opportunism and defensive discipline, Maccabi Haifa grabbed a 1:0 lead in the 36th minute with a goal from Chen Ezra, and then they hunkered down in their own half for the remainder of the game, ferociously defending and parrying away a barrage of chances from the favorites. The 1:0 scoreline held for the balance of the game, as Haifa legend Yossi Benayoun ended the team’s generation of State Cup frustration with a signature win in his final game with his boyhood club.

With the domestic season now over in Israel, HaPoel Beer Sheva has time to reflect on its historic and incredible league title and prepare for the Champions League qualifying rounds which begin in July, while Maccabi Tel Aviv, Beitar Jerusalem, and Maccabi Haifa will enter the qualifying rounds for the Europa League, which get underway in a few weeks. With their State Cup win, though, Haifa will enter that competition in the second qualification round (matchdays on July 14 and 21), while Tel Aviv and Beitar will have to begin in the first round (matchdays on June 30 and July 7). The draw for the Europa League qualification rounds will take place on June 20 in Nyon.

In other domestic news, Hapoel Acco and Maccabi Netanya will be relegated into Liga Leumit, and FC Ashdod and Hapoel Ashkelon earned promotion to Ligat Ha’al, which will allow for at least two tremendous Derby matches between those two southern coast rivals next season.