Thirty leagues games could not separate them, so it was no surprise to see the specially-arranged title play-off in Kazakhstan go all the way to penalties – FK Aktobe finally defeating FC Tobol Kostanay in Almaty.
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FK Aktobe defeated FC Tobol Kostanay on penalties to claim the Kazakh title and complete a clean sweep of domestic honours after their specially-arranged title play-off had finished 1-1 after extra time.
With both clubs finishing the Premier League campaign on 67 points from 30 games, creating the need for this match, it was of little surprise that it took spot-kicks to separate them after 120 tension-filled minutes in neutral Almaty. Despite the disappointment of being denied the title in the final minutes of the regular season, Aktobe went into the game on a high after claiming their first Kazakhstan Cup on Sunday.
With so much at stake, the first half was a fierce affair with four players booked and Tobol's Kazakh international defender Farkhadbek Irismetov taken off with an injury. Tobol survived that loss to take the lead in the 49th minute, Moldovan striker Alexandru Golban heading in the opener. The advantage was wiped out just before the 70-minute mark as Samat Smakov converted a penalty, and although there was plenty more drama – Golban wasting a great opportunity in extra time before Aktobe defender Yuri Logvinenko, 20, was sent off – the scoring was complete.
Aktobe won the resulting shoot-out 4-2, prompting coach Vladimir Mukhanov, whose side also won the national Super Cup, to tell uefa.com: "Penalties are always a lottery, but I still think we deserved the win as we were the stronger team. It's a shame for Tobol - they've finished in the top three many times but never won the league."