Ax1Le returns to form as Cloud9 beat Eternal Fire
The Russian supersquad took down the Turkish team in two maps to kick off their EPL campaign.
The two teams were deadlocked in the first halves of both maps, but fearsome form from Cloud9 after the side swap left little doubt as to who would take victory in the end.
That is, in part, thanks to a resurgence in form from Sergey "Ax1Le" Rykhtorov, who ended the series with a 1.48 rating, 52-33 K-D, and 106 ADR. The Russian rifler struggled in his first three LAN showings with the new Cloud9 roster, averaging a 0.90 rating over six maps, but was his team's highest-rated player in their successful BLAST Showdown qualifying attempt and has now converted that onto LAN in Malta.
The No. 4-ranked player of 2022 has performed a little worse in 2023 thus far, averaging a 1.16 rating, and Konstantin "groove" Pikiner indicated in a pre-EPL interview with HLTV that struggles could continue as the team works to get settled with their new players. However, his performance in this opening match can at least instill some confidence in the lineup as we got more of a glimpse at what this Cloud9 lineup can really do, despite some early struggles on both Anubis and Overpass.
A strong start to the former map allowed Cloud9 to muster a 6-0 lead on the defense, powered primarily by Dmitry "sh1ro" Sokolov and Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy, but Eternal Fire began to crack into bombsites and nearly brought the scoreline to parity by halftime. Once the sides swapped over, the Turkish team briefly took the lead at 10-9, but the combined firepower of Ax1Le and sh1ro quickly overwhelmed them and Cloud9 conceded just one more round en route to victory.
Overpass involved more of a back-and-forth, although Eternal Fire were the ones to hold a lead for much of the first half. Ax1Le's trade kills and multi-fragging proved key in helping Cloud9 remain within one round of their opponents by halftime, and once the sides swapped over, the team's Russian quartet assumed firm control of the proceedings as they only gave up four more rounds before bring the series to an end.
Cloud9 will face the winner of Complexity vs. 9INE for a spot in the playoffs of ESL Pro League, while Eternal Fire have dropped to the lower bracket and will face the loser of the same match in hopes of avoiding an early trip to the Last Chance stage.
|Cloud9||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|52 - 33||+19||105.8||1.48|
|45 - 25||+20||76.9||1.33|
|37 - 33||+4||79.0||1.15|
|37 - 39||-2||74.7||1.06|
|37 - 40||-3||72.1||1.06|