FC Shakhter Karagandy have retained their Kazakh Premier League title with a game to spare after a 3-0 victory against FC Kaysar Kyzylorda sealed the club's second league crown.
Going into the game five points ahead of FC Irtysh Pavlodar, Viktor Kumykov's side knew a win would be enough to end the title suspense, but the absence of top scorer Gediminas Vičius and Nikola Vasiljević meant the result was no foregone conclusion.
The hosts may have been forgiven for thinking it was not their day in a tense first half, missing a penalty and failing to take the lead when Sergei Gridin shot off target with an open goal to aim at. However, Shakhter, who claimed their first ever title last season, refused to panic and Maksat Bayzhanov struck twice after the interval before Zhambyl Kukeyev made it three with ten minutes to go to spark wild celebrations in the stands.
"We were often criticised for unattractive play, but today we became uncatchable and are champions again," said coach Kumykov. "We reached our goal for the season and that means our displays were right and our football was effective. The first half was quite tense and the missed penalty added to the tension, but after the break our guys pulled together and transformed our advantage into goals."
"We have several players who form the backbone of the team, and they are also very important off the pitch," added midfielder Maksat Bayzhanov. "There are quite a few of them, so the leadership of the team is split evenly and no one stands out. We are happy to win our second title in a row and it's great that each of us put work into this success."
Irtysh defeated FC Kairat Almaty 1-0, but Shakhter's win means the final-day meeting between the top two will have no impact on the destination of the title.
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