Fantastic showdown in Pavlodar that hasn't taken the TV spotlight, maiden league goals of Kairat Almaty's foreign stars, a stunning comeback from Zhetysu Taldykorgan – talking points from another Premier League weekend.
FC Astana & Irtysh Pavlodar
It's true that both sides guided by the Bulgarian coaches dropped points challenging each other, with Dimitar Dimitrov's Irtysh failing to win their second straight match and Stanimir Stoilov's Astana seeing their perfect start of the season halted. But without a doubt, the teams must be hailed for their contributions that matched the current high status of this fixture. A 2-2 tie recorded in a great atmoshere created at almost full-packed stadium in Pavlodar was a fair result that kept the two clubs, separated by two points, above the rest of the league.
Kakhaber Tskhadadze's men atoned for their recent lacklustre form, at least for some part of it, with an inspiring 3-0 victory over the visiting FC Aktobe side. Kairat had a lot of intensity and momentum, especially in the first half, outshot the Westerners with about 30 goal attempts and gained a massive psychological boost ahead of their visit to Astana next weekend.
Andrey Arshavin & Anatoliy Tymoshchuk
Two former Zenit St. Petersburg outstanding performers capped a superb evening having a hand in the first win Kairat bagged at home since November. The Russian and the Ukrainian starred on the pitch and each scored his debut goal on Kazakhstan soil in the process. Arshavin converted Gerard Gohou's right-wing cross after the Ivorian was set up by Tymo who afterwards netted the strike of his own on the stroke of full-time.
Entertaining Ordabasy Shymkent at the Astana Arena, Vladimir Mukhanov's side took the game by horns in opening three minutes when they hit two screamers (!), something their opposition had never recovered from. Following the 2-0 win, their fifth in their past five matches, Okzhetpes sit comfortably in third, set to pile pressure on the KPL leaders. "There are no Napoleonic plans set for us this season but in every game we have an aim to act responsibly and get a win," said Mukhanov.
As the weekend produced a barrage of early goals, Tobol Kostanay were 2-0 up inside the first 13 minutes of their encounter against Zhetysu Taldykorgan. Eventually, despite bossing most of the game, they let the visitors escape, conceding twice after the break. For Jalilov who struck both Tobol's goals it wasn't a bad day, however, even if he felt himself upset when the final whistle was blown.
The Semirechye outfit have a character which they proved in Zatobolsk by their second-half display, becoming the first side in the 2016 KPL season to wipe out a two-goal deficit. In just two minutes, Dušan Savić reduced the arrears for his third of the season before Bauyrzhan Turysbek made it all square as Zhetysu held to a 2-2 draw. "We had a tough talk in the dressing room and that triggered a strong reaction from the team on the pitch," said Almas Kulshinbayev.
Against Akzhayik Oral, Shakhter weren't favourites but could avoid another woeful outcome, winning it 1-0 away from home. It was the first victory in 2016 campaign for the Pitmen who seemed destined to struggle this year again but are committed to the fight for their futures with their heads high.
The man to provide Shakhter's decisive goal was their skipper and symbol Finonchenko. The 33-year-old has spent his entire career at his native city club, and with such performances he is going to enter Karaganda team's hall of fame as one of its true legends.
The meeting between Irtysh and Astana proved to be entertaining and crowd pleasing. It was worth repeat viewings and certainly deserved a much better coverage than it had on Saturday. But the game has been ignored by TV, with the national sports channel ridicilously preferring to focus on Okzhetpes-Ordabasy encounter at the Astana Arena. It's an old decease that the league and its media partners show little desire to provide an appropriate TV product when it comes to games outside Astana and Almaty. Why? Getting a relevant answer to the question is as difficult as enjoying the Irtysh-Astana match by watching its shambolic video highlights. What a shame.
Yuri Utkulbayev's team have been improving recently and, having a good support from their emphatic fans, at times looked solid at Kairat Almaty. Nevertheless, without their captain Samat Smakov – who sat out due to a stipulation between the two clubs – it was too little to keep the dominant opponents at bay. Kairat effectively put the Red and Whites to the sword and as it stands, Aktobe's head-to-head record against Almaty heavyweights looks terrible as they managed to get only one win in their last nine clashes and lost seven including a notorious 7-1 dismantling in the league in July 2014 and a harsh 4-1 defeat in the Kazakhstan Cup final in November 2014.
The Russian midfielder Sorokin, on loan from Rubin Kazan, became a big antiheroe of Aktobe's visit to Kairat. He knocked out Žarko Marković, the scorer of Kairat's first goal of the evening, with his nasty punch to the stomach which somehow escaped the referee's attention in the 83rd minute of the game. Instead of Sorokin, Bagdat Kairov was shown a red card in another yet less wild incident but it happened not before the same Sorokin had deflected the ball into his own net when Tymoshchuk hit from outside the box to kill off the contest.
The Western side were handed their fifth defeat after falling 1-0 at home to cellar-dwellers Shakhter Karagandy. It means Akzhayik, just one point from bottom, are the only team in the league to have such a losing tally. "We were fortunate against Taraz but today, against Shakhter, we weren't. This is a bad result but I can't demand more from my players in terms of commitmemt. There's only one solution – hard working to get improvements," said Akhzayik manager Talgat Baisufinov.
Another huge error from Ordabasy goalkeeper that cost his side dear. For the second time in the season Boichenko made a poor clearance from a back pass that led to an unexpected goal. Given that it has occured in the third minute of the game to make it 2-0 in Okzhetpes favour, you may consider this as a big blow to the team's collective confidence.
Week 7 stats
KPL Regular season fixtures