By Erkin Ibragimov
The Azerbaijani First Division may go to the wire with six teams in championship contention as the season nears its climax.
FK Karabakh continue to set the pace on 64 points but saw their lead cut to just one point after a 1-0 defeat at FC Inter Baku on 12 April. Reigning champions PFC Neftchi are second, having won three of their last four matches, but FK Khazar Lenkoran in third position are many people's title favourites.
Lenkoran stretched their winning run to seven games with victory against FK Bakili, before dropping points for the first time in 2005 with a 1-1 draw against MTK Araz Imishli. They nevertheless moved to within five points of the summit and, crucially, have two matches in hand on Karabakh.
Derioglu goal run
After winning 1-0 at FK MOIK in the next round on 12 April, Lenkoran then saw another record end in a home stalemate against Inter Baku - Turkish striker Oktay Derioglu failing to score for the first time in eight outings. The point kept Inter one behind their opponents, alongside FK Karvan Evlakh and PFK Turan Tovuz on 58 points.
At the bottom, Bakili look destined to join FK Shafa in the second division after falling eight points adrift of safety following three straight defeats. FK Adliyya, FK Shahdag Gusar, MOIK and FK Geyazan Gazakh are set to contest the other two relegation places.
Geyazan lie four points above the drop zone but could be drawn into the battle after Shamil Geidarov was replaced at the helm by Megsed Yagubaliyev. The new coach hardly got off to the best of starts as his charges were beaten 6-0 by FK Baku on 21 April.
Baku will hope to continue that form in the Azerbaijani Cup semi-finals where they lead Araz 1-0 after the first leg. Should Asgar Abdullayev's side complete the victory they could face Inter, who won the first instalment of their encounter with Lenkoran, 2-1.
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