ENCE Esports exacted a bit of revenge on Astralis at BLAST Pro Series Madrid.
In a rematch of the grand finals of the 2019 Katowice Major, the Finnish team took a convincing 2-0 win over the presumptive best team in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive to take first place at the event. This came immediately after another win for ENCE over Astralis in the group stage.
The series opened on Nuke with expectations of ENCE putting on a good show but ultimately becoming the latest victim of Astralis’ 31-0 winning streak on the map. Instead, the Finns sprinted to a 6-0 start to the game with Jani “Aerial” Jussila stepping up to push ENCE to an 11-4 lead by halftime. Astralis closed the gap after winning the second pistol round and shutting down a force buy, but that early deficit was just too much to overcome against a white hot ENCE who sealed up the win 16-9.
That opening loss quickly drew questions about whether Astralis was slipping or if their psyche had been rattled, but the Danes certainly didn’t look off in game two on Train. The team broke off five rounds to start the game, playing to the crowd and high-fiving boisterously, but things became much more somber when ENCE got hot.
The Finnish team overwhelmed bomb sites with quick pushes and used that aggressiveness to keep things even in the first half despite playing on the disadvantaged T side. ENCE took the lead early in the second half after switching to CT and while Astralis kept things competitive, ENCE stayed poised and sealed up the game 16-13 to take the 2-0 series win.
The grand finals loss was a tough one for Astralis who have now fallen short of first place in consecutive live tournaments for the first time in over a year. Before BLAST Pro Series Madrid, Astralis was shocked by three consecutive losses during the group stage of BLAST Pro Series Miami which resulted in the team falling short of the finals.
Though a second-place finish would be considered a success for any other CS:GO team, Astralis has been so dominant over the last 12 months that landing anywhere short of the top is a surprise.
The loss does crack Astralis’ aura of invincibility, but much of the hand wringing over the end of the Danish dynasty ignores the fact that ENCE played one of their best games of CS:GO ever. Astralis looked solid earlier in the event against formidable foes like Natus Vincere and Ninjas in Pyjamas, but ENCE showed the team no respect. ENCE dictated the pace of the game from the start and kept Astralis uncomfortable throughout to take the victory and cement their place near the top of the current professional landscape.
Astralis’ much-maligned light schedule will now see the team stew on this loss for weeks as it sits back and waits for its next pro appearance at the Esports Championship Series Season 7 Finals. That sits in stark contrast to ENCE, who will look to ride this momentum into more high finishes at CS_Summit 4 and DreamHack Masters Dallas.