Vitality overpower NIP to earn first win in Katowice
Vitality carried their strong form from the BLAST Spring Groups into their first Big Event matchup of the year.
Vitality started their campaign through the IEM Katowice group stage in commanding fashion, advancing to the Group B upper bracket semi-final with a 2-0 victory over Ninjas in Pyjamas. The Franco-Danish roster drew first blood on Mirage, (16-10), a map they boasted a meagre 25% win rate on prior to the start of the series, before going on to close out the match with a confident showing on Inferno (16-9).
Vitality will be pleased with this result, the victory serving as another vote of confidence for the team after a strong start to the year at the BLAST Premier Spring Groups. Dan "apEX" Madesclaire also took some time after the game to speak about the team's performance last year and how they're trying to go one step further in 2023.
"We were not really proud of 2022, we wanted to do a lot more, all of us. We want to prove a lot now, prove what we're capable of and why this team got created," the French captain said in a post-match interview. "So for us, it's really important to change a lot of things. First of all, we got a bit... not burnt out, but really tired at some important tournaments because we wanted to do well at too many tournaments, we changed that, we changed our work ethic... we tried to find a solution to get there [up the rankings]."
The new-look Ninjas in Pyjamas' growing pains continued to be put on full display throughout the series, with the now international roster faltering in numerous high-pressure situations across both maps. The defeat consigns the squad to a run through the lower bracket, and the side will look to bounce back in their next game versus the loser of the series between fnatic and Outsiders.
Ninjas in Pyjamas built an early, yet fragile, lead at the outset of Mirage, coming out on top in a number of scrappy and back-and-forth rounds to sit 5-1 up at the start of their T-side effort. This brittle advantage ultimately proved to be Ninjas in Pyjamas' undoing, however, two intermittent round losses depleting the Nordic combine's coffers and forcing the side down to repeated low-investment buys. Vitality pulled a 3vs5 retake of the A site out of their hat in the 13th round to continue their winning streak, a boon which enabled apEX and company to snowball their way to a 9-6 advantage at the break.
Double kills from Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen and Daniil "headtr1ck" Valitov in the pistol round kick-started Ninjas in Pyjamas' initial CT-side recovery, the squad brushing off a two-round blip to pull the game back to within one, 10-11. Alas, Vitality, armed with just Desert Eagles, managed to shift the balance of power back in their favour in the following round. The squad didn't drop a single round from this point on, suffocating bombsite takes and a server-leading Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut (23 kills) allowing the international ensemble to punish their foes' map choice, 16-10.
The two teams became embroiled in a hard-fought skirmish to get Inferno going, a to-and-fro exchanging of rounds giving Ninjas in Pyjamas a slender one-round buffer, 4-3. Vitality found a way out of this opening slugfest once in a position to get rifles in hand; the international mix relished in having clinical entries into either site, taking few casualties in their bombsite takes to force Ninjas in Pyjamas to save round after round en route to a 9-6 showing by the interval. Vitality again owed ZywOo their gratitude, the Frenchman's perpetual excellence enabling the AWPer to boast almost twice as many kills (17) as Emil "Magisk" Reif (9), his closest teammate.
The roles were instantly reversed once play resumed as Vitality were themselves on the receiving end of unanswered entries to be have their lead whittled down to just two rounds, 9-11. An all-important 1vs1 clutch from Lotan "Spinx" Giladi in round 21 put a stop to the Ninjas in Pyjamas onslaught, though, with the French-Danish-Israeli lineup wasting little time in walking up to a 16-9 victory to earn their first win in Katowice, 2-0.
|Vitality||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|47 - 31||+16||92.4||1.49|
|36 - 28||+8||76.7||1.19|
|27 - 24||+3||60.3||1.08|
|32 - 29||+3||72.7||1.06|
|28 - 30||-2||64.7||1.01|
|Ninjas in Pyjamas||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|39 - 33||+6||78.0||1.14|
|33 - 37||-4||66.5||0.94|
|25 - 33||-8||67.6||0.93|
|25 - 37||-12||59.0||0.81|
|17 - 30||-13||41.2||0.59|