Season review: Kazakhstan

FC Astana "demonstrated their superiority" as they took their first Kazakhstani title, while FC Kairat Almaty got their hands on the cup, beating FC Aktobe in the final.

Astana finished top of the pile in Kazakhstan for the first time
Astana finished top of the pile in Kazakhstan for the first time ©Vladimir Shapovalov

FC Astana claimed their first Kazakh Premier League title in a season that ended with former Slovakia coach Vladimír Weiss Sr guiding FC Kairat Almaty to cup glory. 

Champions: FC Astana
Having twice won the Kazakh Cup and last season finished as runners-up in the Premier League, the club formed in 2009 by the merger of FC Alma-Ata and FC Megasport finally claimed the title. After starting the season under 34-year-old Grigoriy Babayan, Astana turned to former Bulgaria coach Stanimir Stoilov in June and secured the championship with two matches to spare. With 18 victories and just four defeats in 32 games, Astana were worthy winners. The capital club scored the most goals (63) and conceded the fewest (26). "I want to thank my players, my assistants, the club staff, sponsors and stadium staff," said Stoilov. "The work we put in together made us champions."

Cup final: FC Kairat Almaty 4-1 FC Aktobe
Weiss Sr won his first silverware since moving to Kazakhstan in 2012 as Kairat comfortably defeated the league runners-up. Ivorian striker Gerard Gohou scored twice, helping Kairat to their sixth cup. "We played well today – we controlled the game and deserved the victory," said Kairat captain and playmaker Bauyrzhan Islamkhan. "It's a pity we couldn't do better in the league, but I believe our fans are a bit happier now. They came to Astana in numbers and helped us win."

European places*
FC Astana – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
FC Aktobe – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
FC Kairat Almaty – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
FC Ordabasy Shymkent – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
*subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Bauyrzhan Islamkhan (FC Kairat Almaty)
Islamkhan had plenty of competition for this award given the campaigns his Kairat team-mate Samat Smakov and Astana's Foxi Kéthévoama enjoyed, but the midfielder ultimately topped a poll of club directors, coaches and captains organised by the Football Federation of Kazakhstan (KFF). After veteran Smakov was suspended by the club for disciplinary reasons in October, the 21-year-old stepped up to become a key figure for his side and finished the season with five goals in 31 league appearances. He also established himself as a regular for Kazakhstan, featuring in three of their first four UEFA EURO 2016 qualifiers.

One to watch: Dmitri Miroshnichenko (FC Aktobe)
The 22-year-old right-back was rewarded for an impressive season with his first senior cap in August and by the autumn he had made a place in the national team his own.

Surprise package: FC Kaysar Kyzylorda
Coach Dmitriy Ogai worked miracles with Kaysar, who were expected to struggle on their return to the top flight. With a modest budget and players discarded by other clubs, Kaysar ended the first half of the season in sixth place and were only pipped to a UEFA Europa League berth by FC Ordabasy Shymkent on a tie-breaker. Goalkeeper Kirill Pryadkin, 37, had the season of his life.

Leading scorer: Foxi Kéthévoama, FC Astana (16)

Relegated: Spartak Semey

Promoted: FC Okzhetpes Kokshetau

Number: 7
Goals conceded by Aktobe keeper Andrei Sidelnikov in a 7-1 defeat by Kairat on 6 July, prompting Vladimir Nikitenko to resign as coach of the 2013 champions.

"We defeated our direct title rivals twice, we trounced Kairat at home and did not give them a chance on their pitch. This is why our title is deserved – we proved it. Astana demonstrated their superiority against the rest."
Astana foward Baurzhan Dzholchiyev