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Shakhter on top after Skënderbeu success

FC Shakhter Karagandy 3-0 KS Skënderbeu
Viktor Kumykov's men maintained their excellent form to leave themselves on top at the halfway stage against their Albanian visitors.

Substitute Roman Murtazayev celebrates after scoring against Skënderbeu
Substitute Roman Murtazayev celebrates after scoring against Skënderbeu ©Vladimir Shapovalov

FC Shakhter Karagandy maintained their excellent form in UEFA Champions League qualifying with a 3-0 win in their third qualifying round opener against Albania's KS Skënderbeu.

After defeating FC BATE Borisov in both legs of their second qualifying round tie, Viktor Kumykov's men extended their winning streak to leave themselves within touching distance of a play-off spot. Aldin Džidić, Roman Murtazayev and Sergei Khizhnichenko were all on target at the Astana Arena with the Kazakhstani champions in a good position to finish things off next Tuesday.

Brimming with confidence, the Kazakh champions were on the front foot from the off and did not have to wait long to go ahead. Bosnian defender Džidić escaped his marker at an eighth-minute corner and powered a header past a helpless Orges Shehi. Andrei Finonchenko probed for the hosts and kept the visiting defence occupied throughout but could not extend Shakhter's lead before the interval.

Skënderbeu were having trouble replicating the performance which saw them progress past Neftçi PFK in the previous round and Aleksandr Mokin in the home goal was untroubled for long spells. On as a substitute, the 19-year-old Murtazayev doubled the advantage in the 79th minute, receiving the ball from Gediminas Vičius before driving in a perfect shot from the edge of the area.

On the balance of tonight's performance two goals appeared plenty to take to Tirana next week to guarantee progress, but additional insurance was added in the final minute as Khizhnichenko darted into the area on the left and shot low and powerfully beyond Shehi.

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