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Kairat back to their best

Season review: FC Kairat Almaty won the Kazakhstan title for the second time after a 12-year wait.

By Timur Kamashev

The 13th independent Kazakhstan Championship produced mixed fortunes for the capital city - as FC Kairat Almaty claimed the title for a second time and FK Almaty were relegated after just a season in the top flight.

Twelve-year wait
Kairat won the first post-Soviet league in 1992, and ended their 12-year wait to reclaim the trophy after a thrilling title race. In the end it came down to the final day, where they led FC Irtysh Pavlodar - champions the previous two seasons - by two points. Two goals from Samat Smakov and another from Alibek Bulishev ensured a 3-1 victory for Kairat at FC Yesil Bogatyr Petropavlovsk, while Irtysh were held 0-0 at home by FC Taraz.

Taraz claim cup
Crucial to UEFA Champions League-bound Kairat's victory was captain Smakov, who did not miss a minute of their 36-game league campaign. However, their hopes of completing the double were ended last week when Taraz defeated them 1-0 in the Kazakhstan Cup final, Nurken Mazbayev scoring the winner just before the break.

Tobol scoring feats
Taraz will enter the 2005/06 UEFA Cup along with Irtysh, while third place in the league went to FC Tobol Kostanay, who scored 87 goals including a 9-0 win against FC Akzhaiyk Uralsk on 23 August. The leading individual scorers were Tobol forward Ulugbek Bakaev and Kairat striker Arsen Tlekhougov, who each claimed 22 goals.

Almaty demoted
At the other end of the table, FC Kaisar Kyzylorda and Akzhaiyk Uralsk (or Batys) were expelled late in the season for breaking league rules, meaning only one team went down automatically. That was FC Yelimai Semei, but a 16th-place finish forced Almaty into a play-off. There they met ACSC Bolat Temirtau, and Almaty took a sixth-minute lead through Yerlan Urazayev. However, Viktor Kozhushko equalised just after the half-hour and five minutes into the second half struck what proved the winner.