There’s not a lot of glory in winning the Toto Cup in Israeli football. If you’re a team competing for potential European qualification, the league games, and State Cup games, take precedence over the Toto Cup ten times out of ten. For Israeli teams it’s more or less the Carabao Cup in England, without the Championship teams, and with a group stage.

But there is a cash prize of over a million shekels, there is a shiny trophy, and for the elite teams it’s a chance to win the triple—the trifecta of league championship, State Cup, and Toto Cup. Unsurprisingly, the usual suspects usually bring home the hardware; Maccabi Tel Aviv (seven times), Maccabi Haifa (five), Maccabi and Hapoel Petach Tikvah (four each). 

This year, however, the Toto Cup gave us a pretty ridiculous story, as Maccabi Netanya won the trophy despite not scoring a single goal. Not one. 

Be that as it may, Netanya’s unusual path to Toto Cup glory was a little shorter than it could have been. Netanya, along with Maccabi Haifa, Maccabi Tel Aviv, and Hapoel Be’er Sheva, were exempted from the group stage of the competition because of their European schedules, only entering the Cup for the quarterfinal round.

The first of Netanya’s goalless victories took place on July 14, where they played Maccabi Tel Aviv to a 0:0 draw at Bloomfield Stadium and won the game 5:4 on penalties.

The semifinal match against Hapoel Hadera was held on Dec. 7 in Netanya, where again the two teams played to a 0:0 draw and Netanya won the game 5:4 on spot kicks

The final kicked off on Jan. 18 at the Moshava Stadium Petach Tikva, where Netanya went up against Hapoel Be’er Sheva. Maccabi’s Igor Zlatanovic had a chance to win the game at the end of second half stoppage time, but missed a penalty in the 97th minute to send the game to the penalty shootout at 0:0 despite Be’er Sheva finishing the match with only nine men on the field after two red cards. The teams traded kicks until Be’er Sheva’s Eden Shamir missed the third penalty, leaving the door open for Patrick Twumasi to convert his spot kick to give Maccabi a 5:4 shootout win and its first trophy since 1983. 

The YouTube highlights are golden—enjoy the quintessential Israeli-ness of the players pushing each other and yelling at the ref throughout, yellow cards, red cards, and a very loud and boisterous stadium. Full marks for some quality confetti and a solid trophy lift, and of course Bebe Rexha blaring in the stadium during the celebrations. And really, mazal tov to Netanya for earning the title the hard way. Or the easy way. I’m actually not sure.

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