FC Astana have become champions of Kazakhstan for the first time, Stanimir Stoilov's side beating FC Kaysar Kyzylorda 3-0 after second-placed FC Kairat Almaty had lost 1-0 in an earlier game.
FC Aktobe's 18-year-old Didar Zhulmukan scored the only goal of their game against Kairat, who went into what was their penultimate match of the season a point adrift of Astana. Goals from Astana's Patrick Twumasi, Dmitri Shomko and Foxi Kéthévoama – his 15th of the season – then opened up a four-point lead at the top of the table, which Astana can extend if they win a rescheduled game against FK Aktobe next week.
"It's not important who scores," captain Tanat Nuserbayev said at full time. "The main thing is that we were united from beginning to end – that's how you win titles."
Two times a league title winner in his native Bulgaria as coach of PFC Levski Sofia, Stoilov was thrilled to be mounting the winners' podium in his first season in Kazakhstan. "We deserved this title," the 47-year-old said. "I want to thank my players, my assistants, the club staff, sponsors and stadium staff. The work we all put in together made us champions. We were very well organised and disciplined. We were one of the best performing sides throughout the season."
"It was an unbelievably difficult season for me," said Cameroonian midfielder Guy Stéphane Essame, who took away a bit of the goal net as a souvenir, explaining: "Who knows? It might be the only title I win so it is nice to have something to remember it by apart from photos." Team-mate Kairat Nurdauletov, 31, said: "It is an experience I had almost forgotten about. I won this title with FC Irtysh Pavlodar in 2003, and while I won some cups since, no more titles until now. I am so glad to be experiencing this again."
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