Vitality was considered the slight favorite going into its match against Team Liquid. Back under the guidance of in-game leader, Dan “apEX” Madesclaire, the Frenchmen were considered serious contenders for the IEM Katowice 2021 title, while Team Liquid was still adjusting to a recent swap in its roster. That makes Team Liquid’s win a decent upset, though the road ahead is still a tough one.
The match started on Team Liquid’s map pick, Nuke, but it was Vitality who got the better start. With the French side up six rounds, Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski singlehandedly brought his team back in the game with four kills in the seventh round. Team Liquid started taking control, ending the half with six rounds to their name.
Swapping sides, Vitality once again had the superior start, winning the first four rounds of the half. While Team Liquid fought back, Vitality reached map point with a 10-15 lead. Once again, EliGE stepped up when he was needed most sparking a rally that led to a 15-15 score. Alas, EliGE’s efforts were in vain. Vitality recovered and closed out the map with a 16-19 scoreline.
Vitality’s map pick brought the series to Vertigo, but the construction site ended up being Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo’s playground. Team Liquid’s AWPer and in-game leader had a stellar performance on the map, managing 22 kills and an impressive 90 ADR.
Team Liquid surprised Vitality with a very solid CT side, winning 10 rounds and causing a massive shift in momentum. A strong start on offense and an unsuccessful clutch by Vitality player Richard “shox” Papillon gave Team Liquid map point at 15-8. Vitality started a comeback, but EliGE was once again the deciding factor. An entry frag by the America broke the door down for Team Liquid to get its 16th round win.
EliGE’s strong form continued onto the third map, Mirage. It was only the second series of the tournament that saw all three maps played, with the first one being an upset victory for Team Spirit over G2 Esports.
While EliGE was impressive on the first two maps, he was even better on Mirage. He won five opening duels and totalled a whopping 28 kills on the map. He even got 9 assists and an impressive 112 ADR. Spurred forwarded by EliGE’s performance, Team Liquid won the map convincingly with 16-12 being the final score and the series ending at 2-1.
Team Liquid is now guaranteed a spot in the playoffs at IEM Katowice 2021. They will face the winner of the match between Natus Vincere and Furia for a ticket to the semifinals on Sunday. Vitality will look to stay alive with a series against Virtus.pro.