What Should We Expect From FC Aktobe?

FC Aktobe

KTE play their first ever European tie tonight in their 100 year history, taking on relatively unknown Kazakhstani outfit, FC Aktobe. Eastern Football expert Dominic Norris takes a look at the club.

Aktobe in Europe

It’s is difficult to label Kazakhstan as being a hotbed of European prowess, with the nation’s primary representation on the continent revolving around appearances in early qualifying rounds.

Despite being a relatively old club in Kazakh terms – formed in 1967 – Aktobe’s first European appearance came in 2006 after their maiden league title placed them in the first qualifying round of the Champions League. However a 2-1 aggregate defeat against Latvian side Liepājas Metalurgs dumped the club out of the competition before it had truly begun.

Aktobe’s recent domestic success – which has seen the club win 4 of the past 6 Kazakh league titles – has meant that there have been signs of progression as the team gets used to their prestigious surroundings. Last season’s Europa League qualification rounds saw the club narrowly defeated 3-2 on aggregate to Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in the play offs while Aktobe have also managed to reach the third Champions League qualifying round on their last two attempts.

Aktobe in Kazakhstan

Aktobe’s climb to the fore of Kazakh football actually stemmed from a spell in the amateur leagues after financial implosion. However the club returned under the guise of Aktobe – after previously being known as Aktobemunai – and quickly established themselves as true competitors for the league title. Last season’s runners up spot was greeted with great disappointment by a club who had previously managed to win the league on three consecutive occasions. It shows just how far the club has progressed over the past decade that finishing second is simply not good enough.

Style of play

Aktobe’s strength over their three consecutive league titles stemmed from a defensive stubbornness and an irrepressible level of attacking flair that saw the team seemingly score goals at will. The likes of Murat Tleshev and Konstantin Golovskoy provided the attacking threat and often seiged their opponents in a manner that few could contain.

While Tleshev has since left the club for pastures new Golovskoy remains and with the stocky Senegalese forward Malick Mane leading the line – with the help of the exciting 20 year old Sergei Lisenkov – there remains hope that free flowing football may again return.

Vladimir Mukhanov – Aktobe’s hugely successful coach – insists upon defensive stability as a means of building the foundations for attacking success however there has been a degree of inconsistency that offers some cause for concern. Aktobe may currently sit in third place in the Kazakh top flight however their pedestrian performances against fellow title challengers has left a lot to be desired. Ultimately a lack of attacking thrust – which stems from a distinct lack of width – has cost the club as 1-0 defeats against the likes of Astana, Kairat and twice against Shakhtar Karagandy suggests.

Players to Watch

Konstantin Golovskoy – Despite being at the ripe old age of 36 Golovskoy is still a man who holds the keys to success for Aktobe. While he may not be the quickest or most nimble player on the field his experience, vision and knack of finding the back of the net make him a threat each time he steps onto the field. His time with Spartak and Dinamo Moscow renders him a figure who expects to be a winner.

Malik Mane – Mane’s first season in Kazakh football – since a move from Norwegian side Sandefjord – has been an unmitigated success. 8 goals in 17 appearances is a return that few would have expected as the player looks to settle in an environment that remains notoriously difficult for foreigners. His stocky frame and bustling approach offers a threat to defenders who need to remain on their toes.

Emil Kenzhesariev – The young Kyrgyzstan full back remains one of Aktobe’s most promising young talents after joining the club from Astana in 2008. His desire to push forward can often leave gaps in behind however his excellent left foot makes him a threat as both a provider and a finisher. His 6 goals from left back in the 2010 Commonwealth of Independent States Cup is proof if it was needed that Kenzhesariev will be a constant threat.

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