FC Aktobe have claimed their fifth Kazakh Premier League title after a dramatic 2-2 draw against FC Ordabasy Shymkent on the final day of the campaign.
Going into the game three points ahead of FC Astana, Vladimir Mukhanov's side were aware that anything but a defeat would seal the championship. A last-minute intervention from 18-year-old substitute Abat Aimbetov was required to make that reality, though, and spare his team-mates and the Aktobe fans the nailbiting suspense of a play-off.
Said decider had been looming ever since Roman Paholyuk's 31st-minute opener. Aktobe were struggling, and though Yuri Logvinenko equalised seven minutes from time, they felt heartbreak moments later when Evgeni Levin restored Ordabasy's lead. With Astana 4-1 up against last season's champions FC Shakhter Karagandy, a play-off looked inevitable.
However, Aimbetov popped up to ensure that at full time it was his captain, Petr Badlo, who got his hands on the trophy. "I am crazy with happiness that we managed to claim the title," said the teenager. "We were the best [team] thoughout the season and we proved it on the pitch."
Aimbetov added: "Thank God for letting us taste this victory. My home city has been longing for gold medals for so long. We last lifted the trophy four years ago and the fans were eager to see it again. I dedicate this success to them."
Astana finished second, and FC Kairat Almaty ended a season in the top three for the first time since 2005. FC Akzhayik Uralsk were relegated despite a 3-0 win against FC Atyrau, while the fate of FC Vostok Oskemen will be decided by a play-off against the runners-up in the second tier.
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