Good day for FC Astana and Irtysh Pavlodar, bad day for Ordabasy Shymkent and Akzhayik Oral – take a look at the picks from the Kazakhstan Premier League Gameweek 2 action.
After losing the Kazakhstan Super Cup in a pre-season title decider, Astana regained momentum by winning two straight games, beating Shakhter Karagandy a week ago and Ordabasy Shymkent this time round. Claiming a victory in South Kazakhstan in front of demanding and ardent local crowd is never an easy task but the reigning champions managed to do it to keep their maximum point haul.
Stanimir Stoilov led his Astana side to the second position while the top of the league has been conquered by Dimitar Dimitrov's Irtysh Pavlodar who defeated Akzhayik Oral, also on the road. The Bulgarian coaching brand appeared to be fruitful in Kazakhstan football in 2015, and now there are no doubts that prominent Stoilov and Dimitrov keep flourishing.
Djordje Despotović & Ihar Zyankovich
In a 3-1 triumph over Ordabasy, FK Crvena Zvezda loanee Despotović headed his second of the season in spectacular diving fashion to prove his worth for his new club, FC Astana. At the same time, Ihar Zyankovich scored against his former side FC Aktobe, also taking his personal goal tally at his new outfit FC Taraz to two in two. Although that wasn't enough to beat the Westerners as ten-man Taraz have registered a 1-1 draw, Zyankovich settled himself as the team's MVP of the opening stages of the campaign. As it stands, Despotović and Zyankovich lead the KPL goalscoring charts, alongside with Azat Nurgaliyev from Ordabasy.
'The Balkan legion'
The Week 2 matches have generated 11 goals, and more than a third of this amount were provided by the players from former Yugoslavia. Besides Despotović, it was his Astana teammate Marin Aničić and Ordabasy's Edin Junuzović and Aleksandar Simčević who entered the scoresheet last weekend. However, Simčević could hardly celebrate it since he involuntary found the back of his own net.
In spite of the fact that Kairat failed to beat Okzhetpes Kokshetau at the neutral venue, the Almaty club had its fan base excited by signing Russia football legend Andrey Arshavin, completing arguably the biggest transfer in Kazakhstan football ever. The 34-year-old ex-Arsenal FC attacking midfielder joined Kazakhstan side following his unimpressive Zenit St. Petersburg and Kuban Krasnodar stint in 2013–2015. Now the EURO 2008 magician reunited with his Zenit teammate Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and his former coach Alexandr Borodyuk. And yes, there are expectations that Arshavin will boost Kairat to the title-winning campaign following their slow and shaky start.
Zero wins in five – such a record have been produced by the teams who played on home soil in Week 2. It's a lacklustre result but you should take into account that some of the host teams couldn't welcome their opponents at their regular venues (using backup grounds is one of the key issues when it comes to spring football in Kazakhstan) as Shakhter Karagandy tied with Zhetysu Taldykorgan in Temirtau and Okzhetpes shared the spoils with Kairat at the Astana Arena.
Ordabasy veteran keeper can be named a scapegoat of the week. At 1-1 against Astana, Boichenko made a dreadful error – Shymkent side's head coach Bakhtiyar Baiseitov marked it as "a childish mistake" – conceding after a back pass from own player, something that allowed Astana to retake the lead and set themselves to win the clash.
Taraz midfielder became the first player to be sent off in 2016 Kazakhstan Premier League. He received his marching orders in the 69th minute of the FC Aktobe match on Saturday. "The expulsion affected our play badly," admitted Taraz coach Nurmat Mirzabayev. A day later, Astana's Serikzhan Muzhikov and Ordabasy's Mukhtar Mukhtarov, each of them Kazakhstan internationals, followed that suit to take week's and season's red card tally to three.
After a quite solid display in the Week 1's game against Tobol Kostanay, the First League champions Akzhayik made their first home appearance in the top flight since 2013. And there was a massive frustration when Talgat Baisufinov's men were beaten 3-0 by the visiting Irtysh. "To say frankly, I expected a better performance from Uralsk side," noted Dimitar Dimitrov, Irtysh manager. Baisufinov wears two hats now, acting as Kazakhstan national team caretaker, and it is scarcely acceptable that his club team are rock bottom in the league, with no points and no goals scored.
FC Atyrau, Tobol Kostanay & their supporters
The Saturday meeting between Atyrau and Tobol didn't even begin because of the peevish weather which has intervened into league schedule to deny the visiting teams's arrival. It's a shame that both West Kazakhstan and Kostanay clubs, as well as their dedicated fans, were left without football and for sure they felt their party was ruined.