Former FC Bayern München midfileder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk made his debut for Kairat Almaty (Getty Images)
Week 20 review: FC Aktobe suffer their first loss in the league, Kairat Almaty and FC Astana narrow the gap at top while Zhetysu Taldykorgan register a convincing win to maintain momentum with the host of new signings making waves during the weekend proceedings
FC Aktobe have parted ways with Vladimir Gazzayev — the contract termination was triggered by 2014 KPL runners-up's unexpected elimination from UEFA Europa League in midweek fixture — before losing 1-0 at Irtysh Pavlodar in the domestic scene. In what was unlikely first defeat of the campaign for Aktobe who were guided by interim coach Alexey Kosolapov, Irtysh's new signing Carlos Fonseca hit the decider with 91 minuted played. "It was an even game but we were unlucky to make one mistake which Irtysh manage to capitalise on," noted Kosolapov.
The Western outfit saw their lead at the summit closed to just a point as Kairat Almaty bagged a 1-0 home win over Kaisar Kyzylorda. The only goal also came from a new signing, former Zhetysu Taldykorgam man (on loan from Red Star Belgrade) Djordje Despotović directing his header into the net in the 17th minute while Kairat's new star Anatoliy Tymoshchuk made his Kazakhstan debut as a captain.
Foxi Kéthévoama's strike weren't enough for FC Astana to break down Tobol Kostanay, ninth-placed team earning a hard-fought 1-1 tie with the league favourites. Igor Bugaiov put Tobol in front after 12 minutes but their joy was short-lived as the powerful visitors equalised just five minutes later through Foxi. Eventually, the game remained deadlocked until the final whistle even with Astana awarding a spot-kick in stoppage time. The penalty from Patrick Twumasi were denied by goalkeeper Alexandr Petukhov which means Stanimir Stoilov's men dropped points in three of their four away matches. "We create opportunities with ease as well as miss them with ease," admitted Stoilov.
Fourth-placed FC Atyrau failed to leapfrog Astana after an even meeting against Shakhtyor Karagandy. Both teams took advantages from set pieces in the final quarter of an hour to drew 1-1 at the Shakhtyor Stadium. It took 78 minutes for the Miners to open the scoring with an effort from Nikola Vasiljević while Guy Stéphane Essame responded on 85 minutes to leave Karaganda club rock-bottomed in the table.
Following the signing a number of loanees from Russian sides Rubin Kazan and Ural SO in the current transfer market, Zhetysu Taldykorgan thrashed Ordabasy Shymkent 3-0 in a home game to leave the bottom place. Dušan Savić converted a 23rd-minute penalty and the hosts' new boy Ruslan Galiakberov doubled the cushion before the interval. It was all over in the 78th minute when Bauyrzhan Turysbek added the third to seal the victory for Zhetysu who picked up 10 points from a possible 15.
Elsewhere, Okzhetpes Kokshetau struck once in each period to beat mid-table rivals FC Taraz 2-0 to end their five-match winless run. Luka Rotković netted the opener seven minutes from half-time and Sergey Gridin put the game to bed in the final stages. "A very important game, it gives the oppotunity to keep competing for sixth place. We intend to fight for points in remaining matches," said Okzhetpes coach Vladimir Mukhanov.
Matchday 20 results
Tobol Kostanay 1-1 FC Astana
1-0 Bugaiov 12, 1-1 Kéthévoama 17
PM: Twumasi 90+3 (Astana)
Shakhtyor Karagandy 1-1 FC Atyrau
1-0 Vasiljević 78, 1-1 Essame 85
Okzhetpes Kokshetau 2-0 FC Taraz
1-0 Rotković 41 (p), 2-0 Gridin 85
Zhetysu Taldykorgan 3-0 Ordabasy Shymkent
1-0 Savić 23 (p), 2-0 Galiakperov 38, 3-0 Turysbek 78
Irtysh Pavlodar 1-0 FC Aktobe
1-0 Fonseca 90+1
Kairat Almaty 1-0 Kaisar Kyzylorda
1-0 Despotović 17
Gerard Gohou (Kairat Almaty) – 18 (3p)
Luka Rotković (Okzhetpes Kokshetau) – 9 (2)
Sergey Khizhnichenko (FC Aktobe) – 7
Dušan Savić (Zhetysu Taldykorgan) – 7 (1)
FC Taraz v Irtysh Pavlodar
FC Astana v Zhetysu Taldykorgan
Kaisar Kyzylorda v Tobol Kostanay
FC Aktobe v Shakhtyor Karagandy
Ordabasy Shymkent v Okzhetpes Kokshetau
FC Atyrau v Kairat Almaty