EliGE: "There's been a lot of sacrifice on our side and it feels rewarding to make it to the finals"
Liquid have at long last returned to the grand final of a top-tier tournament, their last opportunity to fight for a piece of silverware dating all the way back to the BLAST Premier Global Final in 2019. The team proved that comments from Keith "NAF" Markovic about their confidence facing Cloud9 were not an illusion after all, defeating the IEM Dallas champions in a three-map series following wins on Inferno and Dust2.
After the match, we spoke to EliGE about how the match unfolded, including the team's initially great start to Ancient that gave way to an entirely flat CT side. The 25-year-old also shared his thoughts on making it to a grand final for the first time in nearly three years, and indicated that Liquid will have to step up their form if they hope to beat G2 or Vitality on Sunday.
Before the game in a pre-match interview, nafany said that Liquid are their kryptonite. How do you feel about that statement after taking this win over them?
We have a lot of good reads on them, pretty much across all the maps. We've done a lot of studying on them over the past couple of years, and of course YEKINDAR coming in, he makes a lot of those reads mid-game and we really feel the flow of their game pretty well. That's what's helping us the most, being able to read their macro and understanding what they're doing, what their comfortable things are, and that's just leading us to the end here.
You seemed really comfortable at the start of the series on Inferno, oSee and NAF had a good game. Then we went into Ancient which started off really well, but then you crumbled on the T side. The last time you played them in Dallas on Ancient, your T side also wasn't great, so what's going wrong there?
I think that the way that we lost this time is different than the last time that we played them on Ancient. This time I feel like we were just never able to get our footing. We were playing more of a B game against them, in terms of us going towards B, and it just wasn't working at all. Even in situations where we really had the advantage, where they had no smokes, I'm not really sure exactly what was going wrong, but it just wasn't really working out.
Only when we started finding our footing doing some more A splits and working A is when we were getting a little bit more momentum, but we just didn't have enough rounds to work with at that point in time.
There was a bit of a weird start to Ancient, you won the pistol and then lost the second round in mid, it looked like there was a bit of miscommunication there. What happened?
That was definitely my mistake on that one. I wanted to play close because they were going to be forcing, and I wanted to run up close. As soon as I heard them doing the smoke in the corner for them to peek with the AK, I immediately knew that was the gun right there, so my immediate instinct was jumping back to the right but I definitely shouldn't have done that. I should have stayed on the left and Nick [nitr0] was coming to help trade because he's probably expecting me not to be running back. That's just an error on my part, which definitely made it a hard round.
Going into Dust2, it was a little scrappy at the start, a lot of back-and-forth with a struggle to chain together T rounds. What was going on at the start of that map?
C9 actually was playing pretty well on their T side. A big swing round was when they lost I think two B rounds in a row, and we expected them to be going towards A on this, we kinda had that read. We went four A and they did a fake cat exec with nafany immediately getting the entry on me, I was trying to make sure that my name was there and that I died and they wouldn't be expecting Keith [NAF] in goose. It actually was just only one guy and they were doing a B split on Mareks [YEKINDAR] at B, so that was really unfortunate, we didn't have the read on that round and I think it was a decently big swing round.
After that we lost a little bit of focus, we were making a lot of errors here and there and they were just compounding and making us lose and more rounds. As soon as we swapped to T side, I mean we had enough rounds on our CT side so it's not like we were in biggest deficit even though we were playing a little bit unfocused. On our T side we kinda started off in that same kind of direction with a really rough T pistol, but we were able to just climb back in the rounds as it went on.
At the end it was your heroics that helped take it over the line, a double kill at goose and then another two kills in the next round as well. How did it feel for you to be able to push that over the line?
It felt good. I felt like it's been really hard in some of the situations that I'm in to have impact because I am playing a lurk position on a lot of the maps right now, so if it just doesn't happen, it's just some of the situations I'm put in. Those last couple of rounds obviously felt super good to be able to close them out in that fashion. Even that last round where I lurked so long, we were in a really struggling position but we found the good entry, we had a good after plant, and it all came together.
Actually making it to the grand final, it's been a long time coming for you — the last one was at the BLAST Global Final 2019. How does that feel, being in position to fight to win a big title again?
It feels great. There's been a lot of sacrifice on our side, we've been putting in a ton of hours, pretty much non-stop traveling and making sure we're bootcamping before every single tournament, so it's been really tough and it feels rewarding for us to make it to the finals, finally.
We're playing really good CS, I feel like we have a good game plan, good reads against most teams that we're playing, and overall I think that just this second half of the year with Mareks coming in and helping us with our game plans, having really good reads, everyone stepping us when we they need to is making us get to that next level right now.
Will the level you brought today be enough to challenge G2 or Vitality, whoever you end up facing in the grand final?
It's definitely going to be a way harder match, G2 and Vitality are playing really really good CS right now. I don't think that we've been playing at that level for us to beat them, so we're definitely going to have to be bringing way more to that game compared to this one.
Well not just this one but the whole tournament, we just have been more unfocused and making more mistakes than what is okay against a team like G2 or Vitality, they're just playing such solid CS that you can't be making those mistakes against top teams like that. We're going to have to make sure that we're going into the theory, cleaning up all these mistakes that we can, and getting as ready for the finals tomorrow.
ZywOo, as he almost always is, is having a great tournament, but m0NESY has also been playing really well for G2. oSee started the event pretty shaky for you during the group stage, and he's just started to pick it up in the last couple of matches. Do you see that disparity in level being a factor you'll have to work on heading into this final as well, especially since oSee hasn't ever played in a final at this level?
The thing is, he doesn't have to go crazy or ballistic for us to win, for their teams as well. Everyone has really strong individual talent on their teams, just really strong riflers across the board for all the teams, really strong AWPers across the board. As long as we all make sure we're doing what we can in the system, having the correct reads, having the good macro where we all understand what's happening, that gives a good level of confidence to everyone on the team.
If we know where they're going, know what they're doing, understand what a smoke or a flash means to the other team and what's comfortable for them, then that can give Josh [oSee] more confidence to take a peek or re-aggress with a good timing, and then he gets a sick highlight play. That's for anybody, anybody can have that read and figure that stuff out, and that's how you have big swing momentum rounds and keep stringing them together.