Shakhtyor are unbeaten all season and have established an eight-point lead over FC Torpedo Zhodino, with FC Dinamo Minsk a further three points adrift. In their final three games, however, the leaders face both Zhodino and Dinamo Minsk before a final test at home to resurgent FC Gomel. If the fatigue of a hectic campaign starts to tell, there could be life yet in the title race.
Zhodino have been something of a surprise package but are paying the price for a relatively slight squad, injuries and tiredness contributing to their goalless home draw with struggling FC Darida Zhdanovichi. Nonetheless, the international break came at the right time for coach Yury Maleev's men, who roared back after the two-week recess with a 2-0 win at FC Naftan Novopolotsk on 11 September.
Dinamo Minsk on a high
Following a horrible first half of the season, Dinamo Minsk have hit form and are now targeting second place at least after a run of seven straight victories.
FC Zvezda-BGU Minsk might still be relegation favourites but they have turned on the style in recent matches. After taking three points from their first 16 games, they are now bottom on goal difference only from FC Slavia Mozyr. Zvezda beat Naftan 5-3, going five up within 24 minutes as Dmitry Platonov plundered the fastest hat-trick in league history inside six minutes.
Much of the improvement must be attributed to coach Yury Antonovich's return to the helm. He enjoyed a decent spell in 2002/03, and promised upon replacing Serguei Gomonov to "win some matches, I can assure you of that". Two victories later, Zvezda are one of the division's form sides.
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