Having finished either second or third over the last seven seasons, FC Tobol Kostanay have finally clinched their maiden Kazakhstan Premier League title thanks to a 2-0 victory at FC Atyrau on the final day of the 2010 campaign.
The team from the northern city of Kostanay looked to have lost their way of late as they let their substantial lead be cut to a single point. A five match winless run culminated in a 5-2 home defeat by closest rivals FC Aktobe on 22 October, but that defeat seemed to rouse Tobol back into life and they won their three remaining fixtures – including Saturday's success against Atyrau – to remain a point clear.
Filip Klapka gave Tobol the lead at Atyrau with five minutes to go before half-time and Nurbol Zhumaskaliyev then made sure of the outcome 20 minutes from the end for his 15th strike this term. That put one him behind the league's top marksman, fellow Tobol forward Ulugbek Bakaev, in the scoring charts. As for Aktobe, champions in each of the last three years, they triumphed 1-0 at FC Shakhter Karagandy.
"I've been playing for Tobol for five years and had never conceded five goals in one match before [the Aktobe match]," said goalkeeper Aleksandr Petukhov. "I couldn't sleep a wink after that. I prayed to God to give us what we've lacked in the last few years because we deserved to win the title a long time ago. I know many of the lads think the same. That is why we didn't concede a single goal in our three remaining games."
For Russian coach Ravil Sabitov, who took over from Dmitriy Ogai last year, the title came as a relief in the end. "At first we all enjoyed being top of the table," he said. "But then people started to say that nothing could make us lose first place. That really bothered me because I saw players lose their motivation and lose their passion. We tried to talk about it to somehow shake the lads up, but to no avail."
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