With four matchdays to go in the KPL first phase and with European football waiting Kazakhstan big guns around the corner, let's mark winners and losers from another league's session that took three days.
The win in a dynamic Thursday Two Capitals Derby in front of almost full-packed Almaty Central Stadium (19,000 spectators is a season record to date) was a great moral boost for the team who have a desire to be in the title race and set to start their UEFA Europa League campaign within the next few days. In recent games, Kairat have claimed a plethora of goals but have been somehow exposed at the back, conceding four times in the last two outings. Against Astana, proceedings went in a different way, with Kakhaber Tskhadadze's men offering a near-waterproof defensive display to shut their rivals out. So, a classy sequence from Gerard Gohou, his 13th goal in 2016, was enough to seal a much-needed victory that meant Kairat have won three times (once – through a PSO) in the last four encounters with Astana.
"I am sure that we had a brilliant match in which we totally dominated our opponents in possession and gave them no chances in defensive play," mused Okzhetpes Kokshetau manager Vladimir Mukhanov. His outfit reeled off three unanswered goals in the first half an hour to wrap up things in their dominant 4-1 win over FC Aktobe. Two of those came from former Aktobe playmaker Khairullin who now has eight goals to his name in both domestic competitions so far. "Individual performance from Khairullin decided the game," noted Aktobe manager Yuri Utkulbayev.
Dimitar Dimitrov's side clinched an important 3-1 triumph over Zhetysu Taldykorgan thanks to two late strikes produced between the 81st and 87th minute. After a heroic 1-1 stalemate in Astana in previous gameweek, Pavlodar supporters will be hoping that Irtysh had recovered their mojo that earlier propelled them into second spot in the standings. By the way, in their last two home games, they have netted seven goals.
One of the most influential men on the pitch in Irtysh lineup was Jallow. His pace, work rate and sharpness have been awarded with a goal and assist, the latter helping second-best league marksman Roman Murtazayev reach double figures in the scoring charts.
South Kazakhstan club grabbed all three points at Akzhayik Oral courtesy of Gafurzhan Suyumbayev's gorgeous effort from range which saw the ball landed in the left-top corner. "WIth the Europa League matches on the horizon, Akzhayik afforded us a warm-up opportunity," said Ordabasy boss Bakhtiyar Baiseitov whose charges have never left top six since the start of the season.
Taraz made a promising start to the 2016 KPL by beating Kairat Almaty but then were dramatically far from building on that momentum. Their lack of competitive spark cost the job to manager Nurmat Mirzabayev, and under Yuri Maksymov, too, things weren't going well for the 1996 champions. Nevertheless, a miserable run of form which contained 16 outings without a win (yes, that defeat of Kairat remained as their only success in three and a half months) came to an end on Saturday. Taraz scored twice – with two shots on goal – against Tobol Kostanay to clinch a long-waited 2-0 win. What a relief for Maksymov and his charges, and with a slim deficit on 11th place, Taraz shouldn't feel themselves dead and buried.
After falling to Kairat, Stanimir Stoilov's men still comfortable at the top, however there are some unpleasant signs for the title holders. Although Astana looked aggresive and solid and very much in the contest against their chasers, they proved to be ineffective in front of goal, having less than 40 per cent of their attempts (7 shots wide from 18) directed into frame. Not an impressive conversion rate, especially when the UEFA Champions football is knocking at the door.
Aktobe are another side to enter a European stage in forthcoming days, and their situation seems to be terrible. Following more or less acceptable start of the season, they fell off the pace and were knocked out from top half of the table. At Okzhetpes, they were sloppy in defense and toothless up front. Having bagged only two points from possible 21 since late spring, Aktobe have conceded 14 goals in their last three matches. Disastrous.
Vadim Borovsky & Yeldos Akhmetov
Borovsky got the lone goal in Zhetysu's loss in Pavlodar, their third setback in four matches. But Vadim should hardly be considered as the team's most prominent contributor on Saturday. Gradually losing his composure after his opener, he eventually ended red-carded and granted with an early shower midway through the match to leave Zhetysu shorthanded for about 40 minutes. His second bookable offence came via a wild challenge on Yeldos Akhmetov that sent Irtysh fullback off the pitch with a torn ankle. Get well as fast as you can, Yeldos!
Защитник футбольного клуба «Иртыш» Елдос Ахметов из-за разрыва связок голеностопа выбыл из строя на несколько недель— KZ football (@KZfootball) 26 июня 2016 г.
Пресс-служба ФК «Иртыш»
Irtysh defender Yeldos Akhmetov is out for several weeks due to damaged ankle ligaments. – Irtysh Pavlodar Press Office
A week to forget for Tobol: Omari Tetradze's men entered the meeting with Taraz as clear favourites and dictated the terms of play only to fall to a defeat that should be marked as the most surprising result of the weekend. And it was an obvious blow to Tobol's hopes on their first top-six finish in four years.
West Kazakhstan side had lost their boss, Talgat Baisufinov accepting FFK's offer to take the permanent role at the helm of the national team instead of his recent temporary status. And under the guidance of caretaker Artur Avakyants, things wouldn't go any better for Akzhayik, despite they put in a brave and vibrant performance against Ordabasy. They were unable to take their chances and couldn't avoid a decisive goal for their 13th loss, the league-worst tally. A relegation looks more and more likely than survival for Oral men who stay only one point clear of the drop.