Unstoppable FC Astana and ineffective Kairat Almaty, outstanding Roman Murtazayev and poor Zhetysu Taldykorgan, persistent Tobol Kostanay and troubled Nurmat Mirzabayev. Here are our winners and losers from another round of KPL football.
Stanimir Stoilov's side got some revenge for their Super Cup loss, with Nemanja Maksimović slotting home a 6th-minute header to frustrate Kairat Almaty. Emerging victorious from the highly anticipated Two Capitals Derby, Astana extended their league lead with Irtysh Pavlodar, not Kairat, being their nearest rivals.
Irtysh defeated Zhetysu Taldyorgan 3-0 to chalk up their third big win of the season and confirm a reputation of the league's most free-scoring side. The lion's share of the job was done by Murtazayev as two strikes from Irtysh attacker netted in a twinkling of an eye before half-time proved a massive blow for the hosts. The 22-year-old now leads the scoring charts in the league with five goals under his belt, and it was an unequivocal message sent to the Kazakhstan national team technical staff.Ordabasy Shymkent
The home form is a cornerstone for Ordabasy's positioning in the top four. This week, the Southerners didn't upset local supporters again, converting their pressure into a 1-0 win over Akzhayik Oral. While Edin Junuzović and Azat Nurgaliyev couldn't break their goalscoring duck, Ordabasy showed they have enough depth as the winner came from the sub Daurenbek Tazhimbetov on 72 minutes.
Sam has been out of the lineup against Kairat Almaty in Week 7 but came back roaring with his captain armband to inspire FC Aktobe to a never-say-die performance that ended Okzhetpes Kokshetau's five-game winning streak. In the thick of the battle Smakov stepped up to take a penalty-kick for his fourth goal of the season (he is a second-best scorer of the 2016 KPL), something that sealed the points for the Western outfit.
After a shock slump in the last 16 of the Kazakhstan Cup in midweek, Tobol had to produce a proper response in the league. And they were quite convincing and beat FC Taraz 1-0 in neighboring Zatobolsk. Although Tobol controlled the game and had a plenty of chances, the win, their first in six outings, has been claimed at the death through Alassane N'Diaye who then made no disguise of his feelings.
It should be stressed that Tobol Kostanay secured the victory two days after Oleg Lotov's appointment as a caretaker. The manager Dmitry Ogay preferred to make an exit following the Cup failure, so it was a sort of hit-or-miss deal, and Lotov, making his coaching debut, passed through a baptism of fire intact. "There are games where the ball refuses to go into the net. We must be prepared for it. Lads showed the character and pressed until the end. That's great, and will provide us with additional strength and emotions we need in the upcoming encounters," said Lotov.
Two spectacular home wins on both domestic fronts with a combined 7-0 scoreline have lifted Kairat fans' spirits. However, Almaty side suffered another setback – their biggest one as it came at Astana – which punctuates serious problems for the team who seemed to be the league favourites before the start of the campaign. On the artificial turf of the Astana Arena, Kairat players huffed and puffed, being unable to make an impact and overcame their well-organised opposition, a 1-0 loss left them seventh in the table, whopping 14 points behind the frontrunners. "There is a 70-percent chance that Astana win the league," admitted Kairat star Andrey Arshavin.
The surprising pack of March and April were stopped in Aktobe thanks to a disputable penalty decision occurred in the final 20 minutes of the match. As a result, Okzhetpes manager Vladimir Mukhanov fell to their former charges, with his actual side's cushion reducing to three points.
A week ago, Finonchenko proved a real hero but that wasn't the case in the next Shakhter Karagandy's league fixture. The Pitmen, making their long-awaited 2016 bow at their regular stadium in Karaganda, failed to surpass FC Atyrau. There was a brilliant chance to avoid a 0-0 stalemate when the hosts were awarded a spot kick before the hour mark. Finonchenko took the responsibility like a real skipper only to see his penalty shot parried by Zhasur Narzikulov.
Zhetysu also played their first game at their main ground with a natural grass but have been torn apart by all-conquering Irtysh. "We held out for 40 minutes and Dušan Savić came close but then our ridiculous mistakes burned us," lamented Almas Kulshinbayev, Zhetysu boss.
FC Taraz fought hard and almost grabbed a point at Tobol but conceded in the fourth minute of injury time. The defeat sent Jambyl club rock bottom in the standings with the worst away record in the league as they pointless in three matches. At the moment, it feels like their manager Mirzabayev is the next favourite to be sacked.