ENCE shock Liquid to secure semi-final berth in Katowice
After barely scraping by in the New Legends Stage, ENCE have caused one of the biggest upsets in Major history. The Finnish team, who had just the eighth seed heading into the last-16 stage, looked calm and collected throughout the series, and punished a Liquid side who crumbled under the pressure as the No.2 seed.
The North Americans, widely regarded as one of the favourites to take the Major crown, especially after winning the iBUYPOWER Masters over Astralis last month, had no response to ENCE's plan on Mirage, where the Finnish team looked the better side for most of the game, clearly dominating proceedings after switching to the defensive side of the map.
After a slow start on Inferno, Liquid ran all over the Finnish side, hitting map point at 15-8. But as rounds kept going their way, ENCE's players started to believe that a comeback was possible. The North American side simply could not contain the Finnish offense, with some of their economic calls throughout the second half leaving much to be desired.
The early exit in Katowice, months after they had finished top four at the FACEIT Major, will raise questions about Liquid's chances to end the so-called "Astralis era" anytime soon. Nick "nitr0" Cannella's men will get back to the drawing board with hopes of fixing everything that went wrong in time for BLAST Pro Series São Paulo, while ENCE will move on to meet Natus Vincere for a spot in the final.
Jere "sergej" Salo opened up the action on Mirage with a trio of frags in a fast B play. The North American side replied in the third round after doing some early damage, with Jake "Stewie2K" Yip following that up with a quad kill to prevent a reset.
Liquid used that momentum to carve out a 4-2 lead, but ENCE responded with their own string of rounds, eventually taking the lead in the ninth round off the back of a quick triple kill by Jani "Aerial" Jussila. The Finnish side continued playing at a high pace and held back a late effort from Liquid to end the half with a narrow 8-7 lead.
The North American side came out of the break with fire in their bellies and broke through the through the ENCE defence in the pistol round with ease after pushing connector. The Finnish team then put their foot down and held back the Liquid with a double AWP setup, winning three of the following four rounds to bring the scoreline to 12-10 in their favour.
Things were starting to look shaky for Liquid, but then Keith "NAF" Markovic single-handedly rescued the team with an AWP ace in a 2v5 situation. The Canadian's herculean effort would be for nought, however, as ENCE hit back immediately before putting together a string of rounds to lock down the map at 16-11, putting Liquid on the brink of elimination.
Liquid knew that it would require a much-improved performance for them to turn the series around, but they were quickly put on the back foot on Inferno, with their pistol round victory being immediately traded back by ENCE, who had a perfect read with an A stack.
The North American side struggled to break through the tight ENCE defence and were often picked apart in rounds that looked to be under control. nitr0's men were unwilling to let the game get out of hand, however, and took control of proceedings to secure a 10-5 lead off the back of a massive eight-round streak.
ENCE came out of the break the livelier of the two sides and won the opening three rounds to bring the deficit to 8-10. Once Liquid had money in the bank, though, the course of the game changed dramatically, with the North American side winning five rounds in a row to hit map point.
And then the unthinkable happened. Little by little, ENCE closed the gap to their opponents, whose questionable half-buys were brutally punished time and time again. With the momentum and the Spodek crowd in their favour, the Finnish side went all the way to force overtime, in which they would pick up two rounds in both halves to complete a remarkable comeback and send Liquid packing.
|Liquid||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|Jonathan 'EliGE' JablonowskiEliGE||45 - 49||-4||86.9||1.00|
|Jake 'Stewie2K' YipStewie2K||42 - 48||-6||80.4||0.96|
|Russel 'Twistzz' Van DulkenTwistzz||38 - 43||-5||71.7||0.95|
|Nick 'nitr0' Cannellanitr0||30 - 41||-11||46.2||0.78|
|Keith 'NAF' MarkovicNAF||26 - 41||-15||60.0||0.75|