Owned and financed by the government, Astana live on a different planet to their domestic competitors and claimed their fifth consecutive title, despite having a caretaker coach, in Grigori Babayan, for much of the campaign. Cup specialists Kairat successfully retained the trophy, beating Atyrau 1-0 in the Final. The unexpected hero of the hour was full-back Aleksandr Sokolenko, who popped up with an all-toorare goal on 15 minutes. Aiming for a second appearance in the Champions League group phase, Astana will start in the first qualifying round of the competition. Kairat, Tobol and Ordabasy will take part in the Europa League eliminators.
Kyzlzhar, who came up the previous season, and bottom-place Akzhayik were sent back down to the minors. Stepping into their shoes will be second-tier champions Okzhetpes and runners-up Taraz. Week in and week out, winger Marin Tomasov was a decisive figure for Astana, as productive in his finishing as his creative work. Originally on loan from Rijeka, the 31-yearold Croat signed a permanent deal in July. Dmitry Ogai, a Kazakh of Korean lineage, did a fine job of keeping the relegation wolf from the door for top-flight new boys Zhetysu. Their midtable finish surpassed all expectations. Kairat centre-back Nuraly Alip is quite a prospect. Turning 19 in December, he plays with the poise and the assurance of a veteran. Had completed just two first-team games when handed his first full cap for Kazakhstan in March.
Decisive... Marin Tomasov