Recently ranked as the top squad in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Liquid found themselves in a high stakes showdown against their bitter rivals in the quarterfinals of the ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals. Though Astralis has long gotten the better of that rivalry, it was the North American squad that came out with the victory and an even more definitive claim to the top spot in the game.
The first showdown on Overpass saw Astralis brutalize Liquid early. Exceptional utility usage allowed the Danes to consistently soften Liquid before they even had the chance to plant the bomb. Any time that they started gaining momentum during a round, Emil “Magisk” Reif was there with a timely flank or Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth would break off a big multi-kill.
Liquid didn’t get on the board until round 11 and seemed doomed to lose with the score 12-3 at halftime. The team almost made a comeback in the second half thanks to a massive individual effort by Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski, but that early deficit ultimately proved to be too much to overcome with Astralis sealing things up 16-12 to take the map.
Map two on Inferno started out in strange fashion, with Astralis beginning on T side and consistently overwhelming the B site to secure plants. Each and every time however, Liquid managed to score the retake. Finances were tight as Astralis scored kills each round, but Liquid just kept winning close rounds en route to a dominant 14-1 half. Astralis never made Liquid sweat as the game was wrapped up at 16-6 to force match point.
The deciding showdown took place on relatively neutral ground with the game’s newest map, Vertigo. Though the sample size isn’t large, the map is widely believed to be very friendly to the T side. That made things a bit worrisome for Astralis after a competitive start while playing on offense, but the Danes eventually settled down and ran off to an 11-4 advtantage. That seemingly put them in a good position, but EliGE was not going to be denied the victory. Already operating at an amazing level, he and Jake “Stewie2k” Yip led a massive rally that saw Liquid break off 10 straight rounds and seal up the game 16-13.
Liquid still has a lot of work ahead in the ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals, but there is no downplaying the significance of this victory.
The North American squad has long been regarded as one of the top teams in all of CSGO, but was in part defined by its inability to get past Astralis, losing to them in the grand finals of a number of tournaments including the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier 2018, ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals, and BLAST Pro Series: São Paulo.
That tide has turned in recent months. Astralis has been somewhat shaky since winning the IEM Katowice Major, performing well across a number of events but falling short of first-place each time. That has seen both in fan opinion and in most CSGO rankings, which began to favor Liquid as the world’s best team rather than Astralis.
Enjoying a higher ranking than an opponent is a different thing from actually beating them, and Liquid scored a decisive win here that truly cements their place at the top.
In addition to that moral victory, the win advances Liquid to the top four of the ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals. They will next face Mousesports for a spot in the tournament grand finals