FC Irtysh Pavlodar were crowned champions of Kazakhstan for the fifth time with a 2-1 win against FC Kaisar Kyzylorda in the final round of matches.
Second-placed FC Tobol Kostanay had defeated FC Zhetysu Taldykorgan in the 32nd and last match of their Kazakh Super League season, with Kazakh international Valery Garkusha scoring the only goal of the game. The result meant that Irtysh had to win their final league game of the season to take the title, having been deducted four points earlier in the season for fielding ineligible forward Rustam Usmanov in two games.
Victory looked unlikely as the match was tied at 1-1 moving into the last ten minutes, but Ukrainian Ihor Chumachenko then scored the goal that won both the match and the title for Irtysh. The victory clinched a record fifth championship for the club and a second successive title under coach Dmitry Ogay, and also a place in both the third qualifying round of the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League and next January's Commonwealth Cup, which will be held in Moscow.
Tobol – whose second-placed finish represents their best-ever placing in the league – improved on 2002's third position and marked a successful season. The club also recorded a 3-0 aggregate victory against Belgian First Division side K. Sint Truidense VV in the UEFA Intertoto Cup second round, and will start next season in the UEFA Cup.
Third place went to FC Zhenis Astana – who finished 14 points behind the champions and 12 points adrift of Tobol – and who might yet reach the UEFA Cup should Tobol win the Kazakh Cup. The runners-up face FC Yesil Bogatyr Petropavlovsk in a two-legged semi-final, while FC Kairat Almaty or FC Elimai Semipalatinsk contest the other semi-finals.
At the other end of the table, FC Batys Uralsk were relegated along with FC Yesil Kokshetau, who were demoted with five matches left to play by the Football Union of Kazakhstan for repeated breaches of tournament regulations and refusal to pay the resulting fines. Two regional zones winners – FC Yassy-Rakhat Turkestan and FC Khimik Stepnogorsk – were promoted in their place.
The final action of the season will take place on 7 and 11 November, when play-off ties between FC Gorniak Hromtau and FC Vostok, and FC Cesna Almaty and FC Ekibastuzets will decide which two other sides will play in next season's top flight.
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