The list of heroes and zeroes from the first summer round of games as Kazakhstan top flight deliver another six-pack of footballing action before taking a break dictated by the FFK and their controversial plans for the national team.
With a 2-0 last-gasp victory at FC Taraz, the league title holders have 12 wins in 14 games, incredible return in such a tense and competitive tournament as the KPL is. With six out of those 12 triumphs having been secured in the final minutes, Astana gained the reputation of the Kazakhstan version of Manchester United FC in terms of strong ability to decide matches in closing stages using so-called Fergie time magic.
Tobol Kostanay won for the first time since May 1 as a consequence of the managerial impact provided by the new man in charge, Omari Tetradze. Ex-Zhetysu Taldykorgan boss who replaced Oleg Lotov at the helm of Tobol a couple of days earlier caused needful changes for Kostanay squad's frame of mind, and that proved to be enough to beat Ordabasy Shymkent, boosting their hopes of claiming a top-six finish.
Kairat Almaty & Okzhetpes Kokshetau
Week 14 action featured 18 goals, with nine of them being a lavish joint contribution from Kairat and Okzhetpes. Kakhaber Tskhadadze's side romped past FC Atyrau 5-2 to register the biggest score in the 2016 KPL that saw Kairat grab the league-best attacking record as it stands, with their hitman Gerard Gohou, with eight goals under his belt, becoming the joint leading scorer along with Irtysh Pavlodar's Roman Murtazayev.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Mukhanov's Okzhetpes, still being 'homeless' (as they keep playing outside of Kokshetau), claimed an inspiring 4-2 win over another Western outfit, Akzhayik Oral. "The goal we conceded didn't affect our approach, we came back quickly and our game was smart and balanced. We attacked with good speed and ball control, and in general, I am pleased with our performance as well as the result we've got," mused Mukhanov.
Both clubs maintained their current positions, with Kairat occupying third and Okzhetpes tightening their grasp on fourth.
Kairat Almaty captain had some tough times earlier in the season but now he again looks like one of the most skilful Kazakhstan players of his generation. Creative and influential, Islamkhan was convincing in sharing playmaking burden with Andrey Arshavin against Atyrau and netted another two goals. So, it is safe to say that the club and supporters have him very much redeemed himself after his misconduct in April meeting with Shakhter Karagandy.
.@fc_kairat Captain Bauyrzhan Islamkhan has regained his form, as all great players do, and scored two excellent goals against the Oilmen.— Kazakh Football (@kazakh75) 2 июня 2016 г.
The Cameroonian addition to Okzhetpes squad has been among the instrumental parts to the team's notable success in 2016. Against Akzhayik, Nganbe produced arguably his best performance since joining the Kazakhstan club, looming as a constant threat to opposition in the attacking third and striking his first brace in the league.
Zhetysu Taldykorgan & FC Aktobe
Honours were even in a clash of two struggling but hard-working midtablers in Taldykorgan. At the end of the day, Aktobe returned to fifth place (although just thanks to better tiebreaking statistics compared with that of Ordabasy Shymkent) and Zhetysu, while missing the chance to close the gap on top six to one point, extended their lossless streak to four matches and impressed by virtue of a great Ronald Koeman-like long range free-kick scored by Ilyas Amirseitov. "I think we deserved to win but it was, as they say, close but no cigar," admitted Zhetysu manager Almas Kulshinbayev.
After a 0-0 tie with Shakhter, Irtysh still enjoy the best defensive numbers in the league (with just six goals conceded this season, David Loriya has a whopping 0.43 ratio). It's a frontline that seems to be in crisis as Irtysh managed to find the back of the net just twice in last four outings. That already cost them the rhythm in the title race, where they now trail Astana by six points. And despite having a handsome five-point advantage over big chasers Kairat, lack of end product up front is a main problem to solve for Bulgarian manager Dimitar Dimitrov.
"Our players were nervous, they wanted to get the equaliser but it appeared that it never happened," said Ordabasy head coach Bakhtiyar Baiseitov following his side's 1-0 away setback against Tobol. Three combined losses from their last three matches saw the Southerners move down the table to sixth spot, behind Aktobe on goal difference.
In Almaty, FC Atyrau conceded nearly a third of their total of the season, which feels like a harsh outcome for their custodian. Narzikulov is a talented goalkeeper and through the previous 13 matches, there were only three in which he has been beaten more than once (3-0 loss at Irtysh, 2-2 against Ordabasy and 2-0 loss at Okzhetpes). But Kairat are in a formidable goalscoring form at the moment, so Narzikulov, after shipping five goals at the Central Stadium, became another victim of their great firepower.
In two previous gameweeks, promoted team Akzhayik offered a brave and disciplined performance to snatch a point from Irtysh Pavlodar and came agonisingly close to tie with Kairat Almaty. This time however, the story was less positive for Uralsk side. Though they scored first against Okzhetpes Kokshetau, they couldn't deny the flying opposition and were deservedly thumped to become the first team in the league to reach double numbers in the loss column. In addition, Akzhayik now are the poorest defensive side in the KPL, with 22 goals conceded and a league-worst goal differential of minus-14. It seems like manager Talgat Baisufinov who currently responsible for Kazakhstan national team preparations to China friendly, is unable to steady the ship. At least for now.