Rare Atom dismantle Liquid to kick off ESL Pro League campaign
The North American side couldn't get anything going in their opening match in Malta.
Rare Atom have scored an upset victory over Liquid to kick off their ESL Pro League Season 17 campaign, casting Nick "nitr0" Cannella and company down to the lower bracket to join Natus Vincere and Astralis. The Chinese team dominated Liquid from the start of the series until its end, running rampant over the North American team's defenses on Inferno before putting up an impenetrable CT side on Overpass to close things out.
Not much was expected of Rare Atom coming into the series: their last international LAN appearance dated back to July 2022 when they placed 3-4th at ESL Challenger Valencia, and Liquid were coming into Pro League hot off the back of a semi-final finish at IEM Katowice. Zhuo "advent" Liang's side more than surpassed expectations in that regard as Liquid were left destitute for the entirety of the series, unable to overcome the preparation from Rare Atom and the excellence from their individuals.
Rare Atom have just one series victory separating them from a spot in the playoffs of ESL Pro League Season 17, and will face the winner of ATK versus ENCE on Thursday at 19:30 to determine whether they can advance without trudging through the lower bracket. Liquid, meanwhile, are left with a significantly more difficult path through to the playoffs now; the North American team join Natus Vincere and Astralis in the lower bracket, where just one spot in the playoffs will be on offer, and will first need to face the loser of the aforementioned series just to prevent themselves from being sent down to the last chance stage.
Multi-kill rounds from Qianhao "Moseyuh" Chen allowed Rare Atom to seize early control of Inferno, their map pick, and relentless aggression in banana helped to keep pressure up against Liquid. Spray transfers and swift entry kills powered the Chinese team to an immense 8-3 lead on the T side, with Liquid only slightly stabilizing toward the end of the half to push up to six rounds.
Rare Atom didn't ease up once on the CT side, a phenomenal P2000 triple kill from Andrew "Kaze" Khong keeping his team in control. Liquid's only saving grace in the early stages of the half came from an ace and 1vs4 clutch from Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis, but that round offered little comfort due to Rare Atom immediately answering back and moving up to match point, 15-7. Four successful bombsite attacks by Liquid then somewhat closed the gap between the teams, but they only served to make the loss look slightly less one-sided as Rare Atom converted upon their lead to close out the map, 16-11.
Any hope of Liquid bouncing back on their own pick of Overpass quickly evaporated in the first half of the map. A stalwart defense and phenomenal reads and individual performances from Moseyuh and Jingxiang "Mercury" Wang dismantled the North American troupe round after round for almost the entirety of the map, with Liquid garnering a meager three rounds by the halftime break.
Rare Atom put their foot to Liquid's throats once the second half kicked off and wasted no time in stamping down, converting a pistol round victory into four rounds on the trot to claim a dominant 16-3 finish to end the series.
|Liquid||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|26 - 37||-11||65.8||0.89|
|28 - 35||-7||63.3||0.82|
|20 - 33||-13||56.3||0.72|
|18 - 31||-13||54.8||0.72|
|17 - 36||-19||50.2||0.56|
|Rare Atom||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|39 - 14||+25||83.9||1.61|
|33 - 22||+11||85.5||1.36|
|40 - 25||+15||85.4||1.32|
|34 - 31||+3||82.5||1.23|
|26 - 18||+8||64.2||1.22|