It's week 5 already, can you believe it? With so much action taking place the time has flown. But now Dallas looms as we reach towards the tail end of the online season, and I've got you covered with all that went down in the last week!
Game of the week was certainly the clash between G2 Oya and 9 Pandas Fearless. There was plenty on the line for both teams as the fight continues over the final Top 2 spot in Group B. And the surprises started with the veto, where G2 picked into Ancient - a map that we have yet to see the team play. In fact, it had seemed to be their permaban prior to this match-up!
And umm, maybe it should stay that way? 😅 Let's just say, it was a struggle for G2 on the T side of Ancient, as they failed to find a single round... Thankfully they avoided the 16-0, picking up the CT pistol and one further round.
Vertigo was also a slow start for the veteran squad, taking the pistol but losing a slew of rounds subsequently. Five at the half didn't have them looking confident, and 9 Pandas continued their run to a 13-5 lead. However, G2 showed their resilience with a fantastic comeback, heralded in by juliano and zAAz to equalise at 14-14. But as we know, 9 Pandas do their best work in these positions, and f6tal ensured they found the final rounds to take the series.
Astralis also had an unfortunate day, struggling in their series against Aces. Their final two week run had to be perfect to cinch a playoff spot, but Aces had other ideas. A dominant Anubis got them the opening map, giving them all the momentum into Inferno, with AWPer potya shining across both maps.
Another highlight match of the week took place between NIP and Team Spirit. Starting out on Spirit's pick of Mirage, NIP did well to grab the first two rounds, but then Spirit - with Jammie at the helm - took the reigns in a incredible attacking side to find a 10:5 half. NIP were able to get off to a similarly good start to even things back out, with Spirit finding themselves 14:12 up. But nothing could stop Nayomy, and NIP were able to get the final four rounds in a row to steal the map.
But that wasn't even the biggest comeback of the series! Map 2 took us to Overpass, where again Team Spirit got off to a fantastic start. xia showed just how good her AWP can be, and between her and the team they were able to get to a 14:4 lead. You know where this is going... ASTRA and the twins stepped up BIG TIME, brickwalling on the defence and pushing all the way to overtime. By that stage, Spirit's resolve was broken, and NIP were able to win out the series and stay flawless.
The final match of the week saw NAVI Javelins up against GUILD. And the favourites showed no mercy, with a great showing on their opponents pick of Ancient, and an even better one on their pick of Mirage. As usual, Angelka and vicu stole the show, but the real highlight is that with this win, NAVI have locked in the top spot in their group, and confirmed themselves at the LAN finals at Dallas!
We had a massive double header this week in NA! The Group A clash between ex-CLG Red and Shimmer had a lot on the line, with the latter in particular looking for the upset victory to steal away top spot in the group.
Unfortunately for Shimmer, their pick of Ancient did not pan out how they had hoped. Conceding double digits in the first half, it wasn't too difficult for ex-CLG Red to close, with a stand out performance from madss.
They showed a different face on Inferno however, with empathy and abby going toe-to-toe with the star fragging of BiBiAhn and uhKelsie. Up 14-9, they looked to once again take a map off the Queens of NA. But of course, that's where the experience kicked in. The final two T rounds proved ever elusive - only finding one after CLG tallied 6 in a row, ensuing overtime. There, CLG Red were finally able to take the series.
At the same time, our other unbeaten NA team, Detonate SparX, looked to continue their run in their bout versus Starfish. The latter have been unfortunate in only finding a single victory thus far, which made it all too simple for Detonate to do their thing. Everyone popped off, but it's no surprise to see Chowdzz again at top of the table.
It was a similar affair for the other two Group B teams, with EG Gold having very little difficulty dealing with Factor Ruby. A much needed clean victory for the squad that has struggled in some matches this season, dealing with both a roster shuffle and new addition 7licious' high ping from Europe. That didn't stop her from top fragging across the series to post an impressive 1.58 rating.
Saints also bounced back in their rematch against byte. The first time round, byte did manage to take a map off Saints, but in the re-do it was all Saints all the way.
South America saw B4 Esports up against ENDGAME, a match-up that had proved very one sided when the teams met earlier in the season. It was no surprise to see ENDGAME pick into Vertigo, their usual home map. A 6-0 start from B4 was responded in kind by a 5 round streak from ENDGAME on their T side, but that would be all for their attack. A pistol round looked encouraging, but B4 never let off the pedal, and had no issues finding map point and securing Vertigo.
Interestingly, B4 opted to pick into Overpass rather than their usual Nuke. Perhaps looking to test the waters, and if so their T side certainly passed as they secured 10 rounds. ENDGAME refused to go down without a fight, and Vi was a huge factor in a strong T run of rounds to reach equal footing. B4 would not be deterred though, and yungher showed how strong the sniper can be on Overpass to power them to victory.
Group A showed itself a mirror of the Group B opener, as FURIA and w7m faced off. The underdogs of w7m picked Anubis, and it was exciting to see FURIA back on the map after their nail-biting win over 9 Pandas Fearless on the map back at ESL Impact Katowice. This one was much less of stressful game for FURIA fans, as they flattened w7m with a 12 round T side - led by izaa with a 2.02 rating.
But, much like B4, FURIA were less clean on their own pick, old faithful Mirage. That's not to say it wasn't a strong showing, with 11 rounds found on their attacking side. But w7m showed their grit with a good run of rounds once they got the AK's out on the T side, just about securing double digits. But as per, GaBi was undeniable in securing FURIA the dub.
The final game in the region was a titanic brawl between Black Dragons and LRV, living up to the showing of their opening match that went the full 30 on both maps, with BD taking each16-14. This time around, regulation was not enough. Like every good sequel, it was bigger and better, but even more heart-breaking for LRV. On each map, the Argentinian team found 15 first, and each time Black Dragons were able to grind back to push OT. Once in overtime, they swooped in and stole away each map. A great series from annaEX of Black Dragons, but huge credit once again to lulitenz for her heroics for LRV.
Who will make it through?
The pondering of playoffs is now much less pondering and much more concrete, as the results of this week have locked in a few more teams.
The big one has to be NAVI Javelins topping their group and guaranteeing their spot at the Season 3 finals at Dallas. Congrats NAVI!
Group A is still entirely open, as 3 teams fight for the final 2 spots. A win for NIP will have them top the group, with Nigma Galaxy as number 2. BIG EQUIPA must win 2-0, unless Nigma Galaxy lose to Astralis, but even still, a loss will eliminate BIG. So they have everything to play for!
9 Pandas Fearless are likely Group B's number 2, but may come down to head to heads between the teams.
South America has one group locked already, with B4 Esports and Black Dragons moving to playoffs. FURIA will be facing BD there, but B4's opponent will be determined by the outcome of the MIBR vs w7m match.
North America is all locked in. ex-CLG Red will be versing EG Gold, while Detonate SparX and Shimmer fight for the second NA spot at LAN.
Plenty of action still to be had as we head into the final week of groups!