Liquid send Spirit home to keep lower bracket hopes alive
The North American squad won their first match on Nuke in more than a year.
Liquid made their way to Group A's lower bracket final at IEM Katowice on the back of their 2-1 victory over Spirit. Damian "daps" Steele's risky decision to play Nuke ended in success and resulted in his squad earning an advantage with a 16-12 win on the map before closing the series on Anubis 16-11.
The North Americans are now just a best-of-three match away from reaching the playoffs of IEM Katowice 2023. They were knocked down to the lower bracket by Natus Vincere on the second day of the group stage and thanks to their victory today, they will have one last chance to challenge for a quarter-final spot against FaZe on Tuesday at 16:00 .
On the other hand, today's defeat means that Spirit's time in Katowice has come to an end. The Russian squad's first event of the year began in the Play-In stage and counted victories over Grayhound and Sprout before registering another impressive win against BIG in the group phase ahead of their elimination.
Liquid's gamble to let Nuke through in the veto paid off almost immediately as the North Americans executed a solid defensive performance on a map they've only played twice since December 2021, losing on both occasions. Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski was on point in the first half and registered a 1.21 CT rating while powering his team to a 10-5 lead while Keith "NAF" Markovic trailed just behind with a 1.20 score. Spirit often failed to defend post-plant situations and their offensive success was limited to a few hits on the A site.
Nick "nitr0" Cannella's men conceded the second pistol round but responded almost immediately with a force buy, which crushed the CT economy. Liquid then sailed through six rounds on the bounce to claim match point before Spirit were able to get on the board again. The Russians threatened a comeback after six consecutive wins, but the gap was too large to overcome and it wasn't long until a Liquid hit on the B site closed the map in their favor 16-12.
Josh "oSee" Ohm was the shining light for his team during their offensive half with a 1.39 rating while wielding the rifle and only finding two frags with his AWP. The American marksman was a the forefront of Spirit's fourth consecutive defeat on Nuke at this event alone, with their record over the last three months standing at 3-6.
Spirit opened up Overpass with a swift pistol round victory, which allowed them to claim an early 3-0 lead. Liquid quickly bounced back with a few fast offensive rounds towards the B site, all while oSee continued to wield the AWP sporadically. The North Americans had seemingly taken control of the game after winning eight out of nine rounds, but that's all they would get in the first half. The Russians recovered in the later stages, with a Igor "w0nderful" Zhdanov 1vs2 salvaging a 7-8 half for his team.
The Ukrainian marksman continued to perform after the break, and was crucial in Spirit's comeback on the T side with a 1.72 rating. The Russians could also count on a few defensive mistakes from Liquid during the second half, such as their collapse on the A site on round 28. Spirit equalized the series 1-1 with a 16-13 victory on their opponent's map pick.
Liquid struggled on the defensive side of Anubis against Natus Vincere earlier in the tournament, and Spirit seemingly took notes. Despite conceding the opening pistol round, the Russians quickly got back on their feet thanks to Boris "magixx" Vorobiev's early form. The 19-year-old rifler started on fire, but it was w0nderful and Robert "Patsi" Isyanov who came out on top of the scoreboard as Spirit stole the 9-6 half. Liquid seemed lost for the first nine rounds of the half, and it wasn't until later that they got a short streak of rounds after a few B site holds.
Fortunes changed for the North Americans after they switched sides as they won the second pistol round and nine of the following eleven rounds to claim the 16-11 victory. Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis finally came alive on the T side with a 10-7 K-D and a 1.69 rating while finding several impact frags across Liquid's offensive half.
|Spirit||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|66 - 45||+21||71.8||1.21|
|53 - 54||-1||73.1||1.03|
|52 - 63||-11||80.5||1.01|
|48 - 59||-11||68.5||0.94|
|46 - 56||-10||58.4||0.91|
|Liquid||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|64 - 45||+19||70.6||1.17|
|65 - 54||+11||81.0||1.16|
|51 - 46||+5||69.2||1.06|
|53 - 60||-7||72.0||0.96|
|44 - 62||-18||65.6||0.88|