Liquid Upset Vitality with Reverse Sweep
Team Liquid have made a statement by taking down Team Vitality in a reverse sweep at IEM Katowice. The two teams met in the Group B Upper Bracket Semifinals with the winner claiming a guaranteed spot in the playoffs.
Liquid had to play through the Play-in stage, as they qualified as North America’s third representative via ESL Road to Katowice points. They took down MiBR and OG to make it to Groups. Liquid’s round one match saw them sweep a FaZe Clan who beat them a week ago at BLAST. Their next matchup against Vitality would be a major stress test for their Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo IGL’ed team.
A Near Comeback
Map one was Liquid’s pick of Nuke. However, it was Vitality who would find a strong start. The French CT side took the first six rounds in a row as they kept Liquid out of the bombsites. With their zero plants, Liquid went into round seven with pistols only. The brute force attack was enough to get them on the board.
From there, Liquid picked up the pace and only went into the half down 6-9. Unfortunately, they would have another slow start. Vitality’s second consecutive pistol win allowed them to earn a 14-7 lead. Once Liquid managed to dig in on the defense, the rounds came flooding in. Jonathan “ELiGE” Jablonowski performed well, as usual, putting up 19 kills and 108.1 ADR in the second half.
The rest of the squad matches his efforts as Liquid pulled map one into overtime. The momentum looked to be on their side after winning eight of the last nine rounds of regulation. However, Vitality managed to prevent a disastrous throw thanks to key plays out of Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut and Dan “apEX” Madesclaire.
Vitality would take the 19-16 victory and steal away Liquid’s map pick after a heartbreaking end to their comeback. The North Americans now needed to take Vitality’s Vertigo pick to stay in contention.
They lost their third pistol round in a row, giving Vitality a 3-0 start on the T side. However, this time Liquid found a rhythm early. A coordinated fourth-round full buy was enough to get them rolling. After another solid round, Liquid broke Vitality’s economy multiple times in a row. They won 10 of 12 rounds to close out a very successful CT campaign up 10-5.
Liquid managed to win their first pistol round on their offensive start, then shut down a Vitality force buy to put the game firmly in their grasp. If not for a clutch Deagle 4K out of Kevin “misutaaa” Rabier, the map could have ended right there.
Instead, Vitality dragged the game out for a bit longer. The French side hit double digits on the scoreboard before their luck ran out. One final A site execute by Liquid completed the 16-10 win to send the series to a third map.
Closing Out with Confidence
The final battleground would be Mirage. Liquid started strong on the T side, taking a 3-0 opening. The next few rounds went back and forth, putting the economy of both teams on the line constantly. Liquid opted to keep things simple with B Apartments pushes and A site executes which worked wonders. Late in the half, Liquid pulled out a four-man walk into Connector to earn another 10-round half.
Vitality got three rounds back by winning the second pistol. The French side were playing for their lives, needing every round they could get to bring the score closer. After taking seven of the first eight rounds, their efforts paid off. Vitality pulled into their first lead of the map at 12-11. The race was now anyone’s to take.
Enter ELiGE. Liquid’s brightest star was already top fragging the team by this point. Needing to make an even bigger impact, ELiGE went to work. He earned 10 kills in the final five rounds and brought his ADR up to 112.4, earning a final HLTV rating of 1.75. Every time he needed to hit a shot, the bullets would connect flawlessly.
The rest of Liquid were no slouches either. The whole team shifted into an aggressive mod, shutting down Vitality’s attacks before anything could ever get rolling. Vitality only managed a single pity plant in the final five rounds. With playoffs in their minds, Liquid solidified a 16-12 finish to take the series.
Many questions were surrounding Liquid coming into Katowice. Their early exit from the BLAST Spring Group Stage was not the showing they were looking for. However, a bit more time and practice were all they needed to contest some of the best teams in Counter-Strike. Although their tournament is far from over, Liquid have proven themselves as a team to fear. Their next match will be against Natus Vincere on February 21st with a first-round bye on the line.