Who's hot, who's not? Here are another pickups from another piece of action in Kazakhstan top flight division as the league entered the second half of its regular campaign.
After getting a disappointing outcome last week, the defending champions struck back by running out 3-1 victors against the top six team Ordabasy Shymkent. It wasn't an easy affair for Astana but they performed with composure and confidence to achieve the desired result and remain the last side in the league with 100 per cent home record.
The 2015 runners-up had delivered a surprisingly slow start to the season, losing plenty of points but now they are seem to be in a hot pursuit. A 6-0 humiliation of Okzhetpes Kokshetau – the biggest win in the 2016 KPL – was a huge evidence of that revival. Almaty club at once moved up three spots in the table, with Kakhaber Tskhadadze's side now sitting at the top of chasing trio behind the leading pack.
Andrey Arshavin & Bauyrzhan Islamkhan & Gerard Gohou
Kairat's six goals came from their three offensive aces who combined brilliantly to bag a brace each. First, Arshavin in his return to starting XI after an injury fired his first double in Kairat colors inside 52 minutes he acted on the pitch. Then Islamkhan, whose rocket of a shot against Aberdeen FC has been awarded as the best goal of the 2015-16 UEFA Europa League, hit from open play before adding a penalty. At last, Gerard Gohou rounded the scoring in the last minutes with his fifth and sixth of the season that came in quick succession to close the gap on league top scorer Roman Murtazayev to one goal. What an evening for Almaty fans!
The second game under Yuri Konkov, the second win under Yuri Konkov. FC Atyrau made a 180-degree turn in their fortunes of late, moving from 10th to seventh place in the table via a difficult 2-1 away win over Tobol Kostanay.
With Kazakhstan managers still far from thriving in their domestic stage this term, Kulshinbayev's recent achievements looks as a significant feat. His Zhetysu Taldykorgan side won second straight game, this time against Shakhter Karagandy. "Everyone realised that this one was a must-win, all the more so as we played at home against our table neighbours, so in the second half all the lads woke up," reacted Kulshinbayev as his charges sealed a 2-0 victory with two goals scored after the restart.
The Westerners had to park the bus, holding on at second-placed Irtysh Pavlodar to get something from the Week 12 action. A 0-0 away draw looked well-deserved as Talgat Baisufinov's team produced quite a compact and disciplined performance against the best attack in the KPL.
To overcome a deficit at FC Aktobe is no easy task and that's a credit to bottom-placed Taraz who did it on Saturday. In a 2-2 draw, the visitors got two spectacular goals and showed a lot of character, something that seems to be influenced by their newly-appointed head coach Yuri Maksymov. "It was unlikely to beat Aktobe, they are a physical team. But the main thing is that we didin't lose," concluded Maksymov after his debut in Kazakhstan football.
Irtysh Pavlodar's attack
In defence, Irtysh lost Yeldos Akhmetov due to a red card but they at least hadn't conceded at home against Akzhayik. Meanwhile, the creative department of Dimitar Dimitrov's squad that had recorded league-high 22 goals in the first 10 outings couldn't open a stiff opposing defence, having gone scoreless in two in a row. As it is, Pavlodar side let Kairat move within seven points which still is a great cushion, however alarm bells should ring if Irtysh want to find themselves on a podium at the end of the season. "What a shame that we have dropped points we needed so much, Now we must get around to win our away matches," said Dimitrov.
Though the South Kazakhstan club fought bravely at the Astana Arena, it wasn't enough to secure points against the league leaders, and Ordabasy are under increased pressure from Aktobe. As the reverse fixture in Shymkent had the same 3-1 scoreline in favourite's favour, about a third of their goals Astana have planted into Ordabasy's net.
The experienced Serbian goalkeeper was a very promising acquisition Okzhetpes got in the winter transfer window from FK Partizan Belgrade. He has cemented No.1 position in the team's lineup almost immediately and has been confirming his quality since then. Nevertheless, a horrible game in Almaty has ruined his impressive run of form. Okzhetpes, near-invisible against flying Kairat, were 1-0 down by the half-time and things turned into a complete nightmare after the break when the hosts scored five more. Stamenković tried hard but was unable to deny the opposition up front which means one of the league's most consistent glovesmen has now a season-worst 90-minute goalkeeping display under his belt.
Before the start of the season, Tobol Kostanay seemed to be among the contenders for European berths, with optimistic predictions on their near future throughout. Now it is obvious that they are out of sorts, failing to make an impact to reach their objectives. After a nervous and erratic display in a 2-1 home loss to Atyrau, top six regular season finish looks more like a distant dream for Oleg Lotov's outfit.