NAVI defeat NIP to advance to BLAST Spring Group C final
Natus Vincere locked in their place in the BLAST Premier Spring Group C final after taking down Ninjas in Pyjamas, who were notably fielding academy player Max "maxster" Jansson in place of Hampus "hampus" Poser, 2-1. The Ukrainian-majority lineup drew first blood on Inferno (16-10), took a step back with a loss on Mirage (7-16), before closing out the series with a dominant display on Overpass (16-5).
Denis "electroNic" Sharipov's men have now handed Ninjas in Pyjamas back-to-back defeats in Copenhagen, with the Ukrainian-majority roster originally casting Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen and company down to the lower bracket in the first round of play. s1mple stood tall in his team's 2-1 victory, leading the server with a 1.47 rating and 89 ADR. Andrii "npl" Kukharskyi also showed positive signs as he becomes accustomed to life in a Natus Vincere jersey, putting up a 1.38 rating on the squad's 16-10 win on Inferno.
Ninjas in Pyjamas, now consigned to a run through the knockout stage, will need to pick up two best-of-three victories on the trot if they're to earn a place at the $425,000 BLAST Premier Spring Final. Notably, maxster was one of the squad's best performers (0.90) despite only having one day of practice time before his debut with the main roster, which was also his first foray into tier-one Counter-Strike.
The Swede also shed light into their preparation for Mirage in a post-match interview, saying it was the one map they practiced and expected Natus Vincere to pick heading into the series. Their preparation evidently paid off, with the roster's CT-side aggression and T-side tactics often going unanswered, giving way to a convincing upset of the Ukrainian ensemble despite being overpowered on the other two maps.
The veto was a replica of the series from the first day of competition, with the battle once again beginning on Ninjas in Pyjamas' pick of Inferno. The Swedes justified their map selection early on and accrued a 5-0 lead on the T-side, repeated hits of the A bombsite going off without a hitch to leave Natus Vincere with no option but to save their weapons round after round. Natus Vincere triumphed in the ensuing back-and-forth skirmish thanks to strong fragging output from Valeriy "b1t" Vakhovskiy and npl, a victory that altered the course of the map. The mostly Ukrainian lineup chained together six rounds on the bounce to round out the half with a one-round buffer.
A pistol-round quad kill from s1mple got Natus Vincere's T-side effort underway and, aside from a handful of hiccups where the side faltered to Ninjas in Pyjamas' low-investment buys, the squad continued to maintain their grip on the game to extend their lead even further, 13-9. Ninjas in Pyjamas' insistence to force buy into rounds eventually came back to haunt them; the Nordic ensemble's coffers were depleted and their resulting lack of utility made their defensive holds severely weakened.
Natus Vincere didn't gift their opponents a way back into the game from this point on, with well-executed site takes and crisp aim from their new recruit, npl, allowing the side just one additional round loss en route to a comfortable 16-10 punishing of their foes' map pick.
Ninjas in Pyjamas showed up to play at the outset of Mirage, deadly aggression through Middle and a switched-on Fredrik "REZ" Sterner letting the Swedish outfit nurture an early 5-0 advantage on the defence. Much like Inferno, a couple of intermittent round wins went the way of Natus Vincere, but proactive tactical timeouts by Aleksib's men helped stave off any chance of a comeback and march up to an 11-4 half. Natus Vincere's only notable highlight came from s1mple, who pulled a sublime 1vs3 clutch out of his hat in the final round to keep his team somewhat competitive at the side swap.
The second half offered glimpses of a Natus Vincere recovery in the form of a three-round spree to kickstart their CT-side, but Ninjas in Pyjamas were hot on their heels the whole time. Numerous high-impact plays from the substitute of maxster — including planting the bomb at the last second and a 1vs2 clutch the round after — were the deciding factor in powering the European mix to a 16-7 victory. Natus Vincere looked like a fish out of water for the majority of the map, Ninjas in Pyjamas using this to their advantage in their effort to tie up the series.
Natus Vincere awoke from their slumber to start Overpass, with s1mple and b1t joining forces with 18 kills to lock down the Fountain portion of the map and earn their team a 7-1 cushion on the CT-side. Ninjas in Pyjamas attempted to breach the Ukrainian roster's defences with alternating plays to both sites, but Natus Vincere's stalwart wall withstood the assaults. A desperation buy of AK-47s and Tec-9s in the 14th round successfully got Ninjas in Pyjamas back on the board, but this just served as a short-lived confidence booster. Natus Vincere answered right back, double kills from Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy and electroNic adding the 12th round to the team's tally by the interval.
The wind was very much in Natus Vincere's sails for the remainder of the game. A 1vs2 from s1mple inched Natus Vincere ever closer to map and match point, 13-3, with a mere two rounds being added to Ninjas in Pyjamas's score before Natus Vincere closed things out in lopsided fashion, 16-5.
|Natus Vincere||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|66 - 37||+29||88.7||1.47|
|50 - 34||+16||73.1||1.19|
|45 - 46||-1||78.4||1.10|
|42 - 45||-3||66.6||1.04|
|42 - 39||+3||67.3||1.01|
|Ninjas in Pyjamas||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|47 - 48||-1||81.9||1.06|
|44 - 53||-9||64.4||0.90|
|37 - 41||-4||55.8||0.89|
|38 - 54||-16||64.4||0.81|
|33 - 50||-17||62.3||0.76|