#Spirit have qualified for the #IEMRioMajor Champions Stage after defeating #Liquid 2-1 in the final game of the Legends Stage, eliminating Nick #nitr0 #Cannellas team from the competition and securing a position in back-to-back Major playoffs for themselves.
Spirit, which entered the competition with 17-year-old Igor #w0nderful Zhdanov playing in his first Major with minimal prior experience at the highest level, achieved an astounding triumph. The squad previously garnered media attention when they made a valiant run to the PGL Major Antwerp semifinals, where they nearly lost to the eventual champions FaZe.
After Abdul #degster Gasanov, one of Spirit’s main driving forces, left the Belgian tournament, there were some concerns about whether Spirit could repeat their feat here. However, w0nderful proved to be a more than capable replacement, and his efforts have helped Spirit advance to the playoffs once more, where they will play Heroic in the quarterfinals.
Liquid can’t help but be sad after their elimination from the Major, a competition where they were viewed as a dark horse to win the title before it started and became more of a favorite when FaZe and Vitality left early. They will be forced to sit out the remainder of the Major and have some time to process the defeat before they make another appearance at the BLAST Premier Fall Final, which will take place from November 23–27.
The Match Recap
Liquid’s choice to begin on the T side of Vertigo originally appeared to bear fruit; a victory in the pistol round resulted in a 3-0 lead before Spirit recorded their first point. Liquid was able to immediately respond to regain control thanks to a triple kill from Jonathan #EliGE Jablonowski, but they were unable to take over the game and quickly found themselves stalled out of completing bombsite hits by Spirit in the three following rounds thanks in part to the AWPing impact of w0nderful.
Since Liquid had such difficulty breaking into bombsites, they were only able to complete two successful bomb plants for the remainder of the half. Their first bomb plant was successful, but their second failed when w0nderful completed a 1vs3 clutch to give his team a lead going into the side switch.
Once on the T side, Spirit wasted no time extending their lead, cruising to a 14-6 lead to put instant pressure on Liquid to almost unbearable levels. After some back-and-forth trading, Leonid #chopper Vishnyakov’s team quickly reached match point. Although EliGE scored back-to-back triple kills to keep Liquid in the map for a little while longer, Spirit quickly clinched the victory, 16-10, to advance the series to Liquid’s choice of Mirage.
The Second Map – Mirage
As the second map of the series got underway, it was Liquid’s turn to put Spirit on the defensive; the only other time they would hold the lead for the duration of the map was thanks to a pistol round victory from Chopper’s side. Mareks #YEKINDAR Gainskis’ 1v2 clutch in round three helped Liquid establish an advantage on the T side after the North American squad swiftly countered with a force-buy in round two. After that, nitr0’s team maintained control of the match for the remainder of the first half. Spirit only managed to win five rounds by the end of the first half thanks to multiple-kill rounds from YEKINDAR.
Once on the T side, Spirit started to reduce the gap, winning five of the first six rounds at the beginning of the second half to go within one of the North American squad. Josh #oSee had consecutive double- and triple-kill rounds. Ohm and EliGE stopped the Russian team’s ascent back up the map, and in the rounds that followed, Keith #NAF Markovic scored multiple kills and oSee scored a quad kill to help Liquid secure the win.
At the start of the Ancient decider, oSee kept piling up numbers for Liquid, tapping down four with the USP to give Liquid an early round win. This early round win turned into a 3-0 start for Liquid thanks to a quad kill from YEKINDAR in the first gun round. Spirit gained momentum after stopping Liquid’s momentum with a half-buy, leaving Liquid flailing on the CT-side as they pulled ahead, 6-3. As the half came to a close, Liquid was able to stabilize a little bit and add four rounds to their total to significantly narrow the gap going into their own T side effort.
A quadra kill by Boris #magixx in the final pistol round of the series, Vorobiev gave Spirit the victory, but Liquid maintained their composure and responded with three rounds of their own to briefly take the lead, 10-9. However, that advantage was short-lived, and magixx and chopper played a significant role in swinging the balance in their favor. As Spirit neared match point, Liquid’s prospects of winning started to dwindle. Despite NAF’s assistance in putting together two rounds that gave Liquid some breathing room, Spirit consistently thwarted bombsite strikes to win.