Astana are comfortable in keeping hold of the league summit, Kairat run riot, new coaches bring something to the table, the likes of Irtysh and Aktobe continue their struggles – what we learned from the Saturday KPL action.
Astana opened an impressive nine-point cushion at the top of the league thanks to Irtysh Pavlodar's failure and their own 1-0 defeat of Zhetysu Taldykorgan. Without being spectacular, Stanimir Stoilov's team have developed a firm habit of grinding out narrow wins, often doing so in some energy-saving mode. Defensive solidity allows them to convert draws into victories without high-scoring displays. A relatively low average of 1.53 goals per game remains the major issue for the capital side but for now, everything goes in best possible way for them in terms of defending their crown.
Despite staying in third spot, Kairat Almaty are proving to be the only consistent force capable to break down Astana's plans of claiming their third successive title. Kairat extended their winning streak to seven matches in all competitions and have stunning 19 goals under their belts in their last four league outings. If they can maintain that momentum up front, an 11-point deficit won't look like an insurmountable gulf, with the season hasn't even reached its mid point yet.
Gerard Gohou & Bauyrzhan Islamkhan
During the Shakhter thrashing, the Ivorian attacker entered the scoresheet in his third straight match to take his season tally to nine goals, establishing himself as the KPL leading scorer for the first time in 2016. On the same evening, Kairat captain Islamkhan bagged another double, which means he has now seven strikes to his name. Following that, the former league top scorer, Irtysh's Roman Murtazayev found himself sandwiched between two Kairat stars in the goalscoring charts.
Ordabasy Shymkent ended their three-game losing streak with a 2-0 home victory against Irtysh that propelled them back into fourth place. The biggest part in this triumph has been provided by Nurgaliyev, with the captain firing either side of the interval to wrap up the match. Nurgaliyev is under the spotlight since the beginning of summer as he also got the winner for Kazakhstan in an international friendly against China four days earlier.
Дубль Нургалиева принес победу "Ордабасы" над "Иртышом". pic.twitter.com/CrcnaY96Nz— FC ORDABASY (@Ordabasy_FC) 11 июня 2016 г.
Nurgaliyev's brace has earned Ordabasy a win over Irtysh
Omari Tetradze & Stoycho Mladenov
The Russian manager and his Bulgarian counterpart are the two league newcomers, having just three matches combined between them in the 2016 KPL at the moment. Tetradze has built on his successful debut in Tobol Kostanay dugout, his charges beating FC Aktobe 1-0 away from home. "I can't say that it was our best match but our team showed a lot of character and commitment to win it," noted Tetradze.
Meanwhile, Mladenov, hired by FC Atyrau during a short break in the tournament, led the Oilers to an important 2-1 victory over Okzhetpes Kokshetau. "A good tactical discipline helped us to get a good strategic win," reacted Mladenov at his maiden post-game press conference in Kazakhstan top-tier.
Another coach who has a shot in the arm amidst the difficult situation recently is Akzhayik Oral and Kazakhstan national team boss Talgat Baisufinov. On international stage, Baisufinov's men produced a brave and tough performance to beat China before his struggling club frustrated rivals FC Taraz 2-1 thanks to a double from Freddy Coronel. At the Pyotr Atoyan Stadium, Akzhayik's regular ground, the Paraguayan midfielder struck the penalty and smashed a great second-half volley to give the Westerners the lead for good.
Just five points from five games – such an outcome is a big contrast to a superb March and April string of results delivered by Irtysh. Strong and focused earlier in the campaign, today they look vulnerable at the back and lacking something in offensive play as was the case with the trip to Ordabasy. A 2-0 reverse Dimitar Dimitrov's men suffered in Shymkent, where their creative winger Gogita Gogua has switched after the summer transfer market opened, saw their gap above Kairat reduced to two points. Not to mention their fading chances to stay in the title race.
The side from Akmola Region also have lost their rhythm, bagging only two wins in their past nine matches (albeit those were brilliant 4-1 and 4-2 triumphs against Zhetysu and Akzhayik respectively). This time around, Vladimir Mukhanov's outfit fell 2-1 at FC Atyrau. Pavel Shabalin put the hosts in front in the 28th minute with a clinical turnaround attempt only to see his opener cancelled out by Serge Nganbe's nice headed shot shortly after the restart. Nevertheless, it was Atyrau who had the last laugh, with Przemysław Trytko heading a diagonal cross past goalkeeper for his fourth goal in Kazakhstan. Okzhetpes remain in the top four but now sit just one point clear of Ordabasy.
Yaroslav Baginsky & Igor Shatsky
Two Shakhter Karagandy goalkeepers shared a bitter amount of five goals generated by Kairat Almaty's devastating attack. Baginsky shipped three before manager Jozef Vukušič brought in Shatsky in the 67th minute. That wouldn't help much as the sub goalie was beaten twice in the final minutes through Islamkhan. The 5-0 humiliation was the worst home experience for Shakhter and their men between the pipes since... the 5-0 humiliation they swallowed here against the same Kairat back in July, 2015.
The Red and Whites lost to Tobol Kostanay and therefore might slip behind them in the table, with the opponents having a game in hand. No party, no penalties, no Samat Smakov (the side's skipper has been substituted 15 minutes in after he suffered an injury). With Aktobe having scored only once in their previous 315 minutes of football, there's a feeling that their top six position is in serious danger.
New manager Yuri Maksymov made some impact after signing a deal with FC Taraz, however it wasn't strong enough to earn them points they desperately need. Following a 2-1 loss in Uralsk, Jambyl Region side remained rock-bottom, trailing Akzhayik by four points instead of one. Maybe their recent acquisition in former Ukraine forward Oleksandr Aliyev who slotted a classy finish into the Akzhayik's net for some consolation in the game, could change things for Taraz.