FC Astana captain Tanat Nuserbayev (17) scored a winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Irtysh Pavlodar at the Astana Arena on Saturday (kpfl.kz)
Week 31 review: FC Astana and Kairat Almaty leave it late to decide the league, Kaisar Kyzylorda suffer relegation and Zhetysu Taldykorgan secure a playoff finish
FC Astana moved to the summit after defeating FC Atyrau 4-1 in a rescheduled Week 24 game at the Astana Arena on Wednesday. In the first half, Roger Cañas and Abzal Beisebekov scored from a corner plays, giving Astana a comfortable lead but the visitors came back into the contest as Volodymyr Arzhanov reduced the deficit in the 30th minute. Afterwards, Atyrau struggled chasing an equaliser while Stanimir Stoilov's men proved to be more clinical with Tanat Nuserbayev firing home a 73rd-minute header to restore Astana's two-goal advantage. And it wasn't the whole story, Junior Kabananga made the victory even more convincing as he robbed Michael Odibe and slotted the ball home two minutes into injury time. Therefore, Astana leapfrogged Kairat Almaty in the table with Vladimír Weiss' team slipping to second spot, one point shy of the defending champions
On Saturday, FC Astana build on their success, Tanat Nuserbayev's second-half goal saw them win 1-0 against Irtysh Pavlodar for their fifth successive maximum haul on domestic stage. The hard-earned victory allowed Astana to remain on top, and they will bag the title – their second in a row – if they beat FC Aktobe at home in the last week. "Without our four injured starters, we lacked quality and attacking prowess. But [Kostyantyn] Dudchenko had one great opportunity, and we could change things if we had scored it," said Irtysh manager Dimitar Dimitrov.
At the same time, Astana rivals Kairat Almaty managed to romp to a 3-0 away win over aforementioned FC Aktobe to stay in striking distance of the leaders with one game to spare. Following the goalless first half, the host side were outplayed as Serginho put Kairat in front, converting the 53rd-minute spot-kick before claiming a brace through the rebound five minutes from time. Djordje Despotović scored the third shortly after, the Serbian chipping the ball over goalkeeper Stas Pokatilov to wrap up the points for Almaty outfit who keep going one point adrift of Astana.
Ukrainian midfielder Volodymyr Arzhanov produced a 30th-minute decider as FC Atyrau defeated Ordabasy Shymkent 1-0 away from home, clinching their first win on the road in nine outings. The loss denied Southern club a top three finish, with Aktobe registering bronze medals.
Championship round standings
In a tense clash of two relegation-threatened sides, Zhetysu Taldykorgan came from behind to grab a late 2-1 triumph against Kaisar Kyzylorda. After 13 minutes, Aldan Baltayev gave the Wolves the early lead, and it wasn't until the 79th minute that Semirechye side levelled via Elbeyi Guliev. In stoppage time, both teams were left with 10 men, Zhetysu's Davron Ergashev and Kaisar's Farkhadbek Irismetov dismissing before Dušan Savić scored a winner on the stroke of full-time. Consequently, Zhetysu got the playoffs while Kaisar lost their position in the Kazakhstan top division and have to play in the First League in 2016.
Shakhtyor Karagandy saw off FC Taraz 3-0 on home soil in Central Kazakhstan to assure their top-flight status for next season. Mihret Topcagić broke the deadlock inside opening five minutes, while Andrey Karpovich doubled the lead in the 57th minute and Vladislav Vasiliev struck two minutes later to round off the scoring. "I want to take hat off to lads, they proved they are professionals in such a difficult situation [with unpaid wages]," said Shakhtyor head coach Igor Zakharyak.
22nd-minute goal from Igor Yurin paved the way for Tobol Kostanay's 1-0 win over table neighbours Okzhetpes Kokshetau which secured their seventh-placed finish. Despite an unimpressive performance, Sergey Maslyonov's men extended their unbeaten home run to four matches and now are beyond reach in the Relegation group having chalked up more points than three of the top six teams.
Relegation round standings
Matchday 24 result (rescheduled fixture)
FC Astana 4-1 FC Atyrau
1-0 Cañas 13, 2-0 Beisebekov 23, 2-1 Arzhanov 30, 3-1 Nuserbayev 73, Kabananga 90+2
Matchday 31 results
FC Astana 1-0 Irtysh Pavlodar
1-0 Nuserbayev 57
Ordabasy Shymkent 0-1 FC Atyrau
0-1 Arzhanov 30
FC Aktobe 0-3 Kairat Almaty
0-1 Serginho 53 (p), 0-2 Serginho 85, 0-3 Despotović 88
Zhetysu Taldykorgan 2-1 Kaisar Kyzylorda
0-1 Baltayev 13, 1-1 Guliyev 79, 2-1 Savić 90+5
RC: Ergashev 90+4 (Zhetysu), Irismetov 90+4 (Kaisar)
Shakhtyor Karagandy 3-0 FC Taraz
1-0 Topcagić 5, 2-0 Karpovich 57, 3-0 Vasiliev 59
Tobol Kostanay 1-0 Okzhetpes Kokshetau
1-0 Yurin 22
FC Astana v FC Aktobe
Kairat Almaty v Ordabasy Shymkent
FC Atyrau v Irtysh Pavlodar
Zhetysu Taldykorgan v Tobol Kostanay
Okzhetpes Kokshetau v Shakhtyor Karagandy
FC Taraz v Kaisar Kyzylorda
Gerard Gohou (Kairat Almaty) – 22 (3p)
Luka Rotković (Okzhetpes Kokshetau) – 13 (2p)
Tanat Nuserbayev (FC Astana) – 11
Djordje Despotović (Zhetysu Taldykorgan / Kairat Almaty) – 11
Dušan Savić (Zhetysu Taldykorgan) – 10 (1p)
Sergey Khizhnichenko (FC Aktobe) – 9 (1p)