Dignitas have advanced to the quarter-finals of the BLAST Premier Spring Showdown after securing a stunning 2-0 victory over Liquid (Nuke 16-5, Vertigo 16-13). The Swedish side has added a huge upset to their impressive resumé with the newest addition Lekr0, who played a key role in the opening win alongside HEAP.
“I’m feeling really confident right now,” Lekr0 said shortly after the match. “I have a new role, I should be able to frag more than I did before considering the role and the positions I play. I’m really happy with how I’m playing.”
“We beat Liquid today, so I think that shows what teams we can beat. I know it’s a really good team, and the last really good team we played against was EG, and it was a game we should have almost won, as well. We perform better against tier-one teams.”
Dignitas’ newest additions HEAP and Lekr0 put up key performances
It was to be expected that Dignitas would pick Nuke, the map where they had seen so much success after Lekr0‘s arrival with an 11-3 record, but few could have foreseen the level of dominance the Swedish-Norwegian squad would display on the opener against a team of Liquid‘s stature.
With HEAP in the spotlight, Dignitas put together a stunning offense, conceding just one round to a Deagle buy as they kept capitalizing on the mistakes of the North American team, who found themselves without answers even in advantageous situations. There was little hope for Liquid in the second half in spite of a pistol round victory, and it was all over just a few rounds later, when Dignitas secured map point with just pistols and ended their adversaries’ misery at 16-5.
Vertigo turned out a much closer battle after the Swedes got off to another solid start, with Liquid going on a big streak on the offense in the middle of the first half to take their first lead in the series. Momentum swung again with a Deagle win going Dignitas‘ way, however, and the underdogs went on to pick up an 8-7 half on the back of two triples from Håkon “hallzerk” Fjærli on the AWP.
After sides switched, the North American team regained the lead but soon lost it again to yet another pistol buy from Lekr0 & co. The pressure mounted on Liquid as the map reached the late stages, and they managed to keep their opponents within reach thanks to Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo‘s defensive AWPing on A, but ultimately some key multikills from HEAP put the series to rest at 16-13, 2-0.
G2 have booked their place in the second round of the ESL Pro League Season 13 playoffs following a hard-fought 2-1 victory against Liquid, who have been eliminated in 9th-12th place. The North American side produced the recipe for victory but were ultimately made to pay the price for their inability to win a single pistol round in the series.
G2‘s fans have Nemanja “huNter-” Kovač to thank for the reverse sweep as it was the Bosnian’s spectacular 30-bomb on Vertigo that kept the team in the series after a disappointing loss on Dust2. The final map, Inferno, was a nail-biting affair that almost ended in overtime as both teams put in resolute defensive performances.
“It feels great, it just sucks that we couldn’t win Dust2 because we won both pistols and we converted them,” Nikola “NiKo” Kovač said after the match. “It was a really good game by Liquid. When you win two pistols, you need to get like 13 or 14 rounds. They played really well on Dust2.
“We’ve worked on our pistols, and Jackie is really good at pistols, which helps a lot.”
huNter-‘s 30-bomb on Vertigo inspired G2’s comeback
G2 made a bright start to the series, picking up a 3-0 lead on Dust2, but the pattern of the game changed once Liquid had money in the bank. The North Americans enjoyed a period of dominance – only briefly interrupted by a 1v3 clutch from Nemanja “nexa” Isaković – before G2 staged a late recovery to keep the deficit to a minimum.
The second half began with nexa and NiKo overturning a 2v3 post-plant situation to restore parity at 8-8. G2 held firm against Liquid‘s force-buy in the following round, but there was nothing they could to stop the North Americans once they had guns in hand. With Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo leading the charge, Liquid took control of the game and ripped G2‘s ragged defence apart for a quick end to the map.
On Vertigo, G2 once again started the better of the two, but their grip on the game loosened as the half wore on. Despite a fantastic showing by huNter- (18-13 K-D, 143 ADR and six multi-kills), the international team went into the break down by three rounds after a 7-1 run by Liquid at the end of the half. The Bosnian’s dominance continued in the second half, when G2 were far too hot for Liquid to handle. The rounds that Liquid edged out were few and far between as nexa‘s troops put in a near-flawless T display to secure the map.
François “AmaNEk” Delaunay opened the action on Inferno with a pistol ace on Inferno to fire G2 into the lead, but their respite was shortlived as Liquid hit back immediately. Michael “Grim” Wince and Jake “Stewie2K” Yip picked up 16 frags apiece as the North Americans kept their defence tight to end the half on double-digit territory. G2 came out of the break a revitalised side and kept Liquid‘s players at bay for large portions of the half, sealing the victory in the final round of regulation after a chaotic end to the game.
G2‘s players breathed a sigh of relief after narrowly avoiding elimination against a team that had survived the ‘Group of Death’ with a 4-1 record. They’ll be fancying their chances for Sunday’s match against FURIA, whom they have already defeated this year (2-1 victory in the BLAST Premier Global Final).
“I think we’re going to play better than we did today,” NiKo said. “This was a really important win for our confidence. We won all pistols, but the games weren’t really convincing.
“We feel confident going up against FURIA, I think we’ve figured out how they approach the games and we know how to counter it. They’ve probably improved with junior since they’ve had a lot of time. It should be a good one.”
Following the conclusion of the ESL Pro League Season 13 group stage on Monday, ESL revealed the match-ups for the Play-In stage and for the first round of the single-elimination playoffs.
The four group winners — Heroic, NIP, Gambit and Astralis — have guaranteed spots in the Play-In stage, which will determine the first two semi-finalists of the tournament. The losing sides will be placed in the third playoff round.
In the Round of 12, all eyes will be on the highly-entertaining encounter between G2 and Liquid, who have not faced each other since February 2020, in the group stage of IEM Katowice. The opening round will also see current world No.1 Natus Vincere take on Complexity in a rematch of January’s BLAST Premier Global Final lower bracket match — which marked the beginning of the CIS giants’ title-winning run.
Below you can find the upcoming match-ups for the ESL Pro League and the schedule for the rest of the tournament:
A strong showing from Liquid in the domestic matchup against Evil Geniuses confirmed the status of Jake “Stewie2K” Yip and co. as the best in their region. While both maps featured some back-and-forth and plenty of force-buy success, Liquid took the series fairly comfortably, 2-0, to ensure a place in the playoffs.
In the post-match interview, Stewie2K admitted that his team was “a little scared that we weren’t prepared enough” for the event after going back to North America, but they feel great after their showings so far. When asked about his individual step up (1.14 rating at EPL S13), the 23-year-old said that he feels a lot more confident at the moment, especially with Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo taking over the calling which allowed him to go back to his “natural role”.
In terms of Group D at ESL Pro League, this result means that Astralis, Virtus.pro, and Liquid are locked in for the playoffs, while fnatic, Endpoint, and Evil Geniuses are out. The first place in the group will be decided on Monday. Astralis are in control of their destiny, as a win over eliminated fnatic will see them stay on top, but in case of an upset from the Swedes, the winner of Virtus.pro – Liquid will claim the #1 slot.
Liquid ended EG’s playoffs hopes with a 2-0 sweep
The series started on Inferno, where Liquid picked up five in a row early on the CT side to recover from the second-round anti-force loss. The momentum was snatched back by Evil Geniuses after a triple from Tsvetelin “CeRq” Dimitrov, that broke their opponent’s money. The Bulgarian was causing issues for Liquid, seeing Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz and co. finishing their offensive half just one round behind. The game became chaotic after the switch, force buys were traded back and forth throughout, but that ended up favoring Liquid on the T side, who closed it out 16-11.
Liquid moved ahead early on the offense of Overpass, overcoming some anti-force issues to claim a 7-2 lead following FalleN‘s 1v2 clutch. That allowed Stewie2K‘s team to gain an economic advantage, which they held for the rest of the half despite some heroics from Vincent “Brehze” Cayonte. With 10 rounds for the half, Liquid were looking strong to finish off the game. In the second half, they finally thwarted Evil Geniuses‘ force buys, taking their map pick 16-10 with the help of an in-form Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski (1.58 Rating).
Liquid have toppled Endpoint in a two-map affair (Inferno 16-12, Vertigo 16-9) at the end of day three in Group D of ESL Pro League Season 13 to secure their second victory and tie Astralis and Virtus.pro for first place in the round-robin. The European side now sits among two teams, Evil Geniuses and fnatic, at the bottom of the group with a 1-2 record as the fight for the last three playoffs spots is beginning to tense up.
Endpoint chose their favorite Inferno for the series opener and went on to give Liquid a run for their money after having defeated fnatic on the same map on the previous day. Joey “CRUC1AL” Steusel & co. weren’t successful this time, but they still made it a close affair despite a great performance from Keith “NAF” Markovic in the first half.
Liquid will next face North American rivals EG
The North American side eventually pulled away when they were up 9-8 on the back of an Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski quad-kill, and although Endpoint‘s resilience kept them in the map for a while up against seven map points, Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo snatched the last round away with a flashy 1v3 clutch on the B bombsite.
It was a similar story on Vertigo. Endpoint looked competitive when they were on the T side, coming back from a 1-5 deficit early with a strong run towards the end of the half to come out on top 8-7, but the map flipped on its head when the sides swapped. Winning heads-up fights in a big commotion near the B stairs in the pistol round, Liquid seized the momentum on the CT side and survived a couple of close rounds up against low weaponry, rallying to a 16-9 victory with a strong A ramp defense.
Two more rounds are left to be played as the group is split in half, with the top three teams at a 2-1 record and the bottom three at 1-2:
Astralis recovered from Thursday’s defeat to Evil Geniuses as they beat Liquid in back-to-back overtime games to pick up their first victory in ESL Pro League Season 13. The Danish team left it late to claim victory on Overpass after letting a 14-2 lead slip, and then wrapped things up on Dust2, where they fought back from a 1-7 deficit and a map point down.
Nicolai “device” Reedtz put in another brilliant display, topping the scoreboard on both maps and keeping Liquid from taking the series to a third map with some crucial rounds in the second half of Dust2. The much-needed victory has the added bonus of extending the Danes’ winning streak against Liquid to ten matches.
“I think both teams played really well, it was very close and could have gone either way. I’m happy that we managed to close out the game,” Emil “Magisk” Reif said after the match, adding that the team is still trying to shake off some rustiness. “I think we are going in the right direction. I think you could feel yesterday that it was our first official game in quite some time. I think we need a bit more official matches to get back into it, but I feel improvement from game to game.”
device put in a series-high 1.70 rating and 1.90 Impact
Astralis came out with fire in their bellies and took the game to their opponents during the first half of Overpass. device and Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen combined for 42 frags as the Danes’ defence shut down Liquid, who were limited to just two rounds in the half.
Astralis were unwilling to take pity on their opponents and added to their lead with a 1v2 clutch by Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth after the break, but there would no follow-up as Liquid hit back immediately on a force-buy to claw their way back into the game. The North Americans’ double AWP setup proved ruthlessly effective against Astralis as Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo‘s troops kept the Danish players at bay for the remainder of the half to force overtime.
The momentum was now very much with Liquid, but they were unable to go all the way as Astralis snatched one round on the offense before running away with the game with a flawless CT performance.
A stunning quad-kill by device in the pistol round set the tone for the early stages of the half as Astralis went on a 5-1 run with a tight defence. The Danish AWPer also came to the team’s rescue late in the half as Liquid threatened to run riot, first with a crucial 1v2 clutch and then with an ace in the final round of regulation, to help push the game to overtime – in which Astralis would win four rounds without response.
paiN punched their ticket to Sunday’s grand final of DreamHack Open March North America following a stunning 2-1 victory over World No.6 Liquid in the semi-finals. The ESEA Advanced team will look to defend their DreamHack Open January title against the winner of Extra Salt vs. High Coast in the best-of-five tournament decider.
It was just his first map ever against a tier-one team, but Rafael “saffee” Costa tore Liquid apart on Dust 2. The 26-year-old AWPer’s stellar performance was exactly what paiN needed to pull off an upset as he finished the map with a 33-11 K/D and a 2.07 rating.
Liquid looked a revitalised side on Overpass as they strolled to a 12-3 lead, with Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski finishing the half with a 22-7 score and a 143 ADR. The North American team lost just one round in the second half before wrapping things up to take the series to Inferno.
paiN jumped out to a 6-1 lead on Inferno before Liquid adjusted their defence, with only three rounds separating the two sides at the break. The Brazilians managed to steal an important round in the second half when they had just three rifles, putting Liquid against the ropes, and, with Rodrigo “biguzera” Bittencourt leading the charge, quickly put the game past their opponents.
Despite some visa-related difficulties, which forced Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo to remain in Europe for the event while the rest of the team traveled across the Atlantic after IEM Katowice, the big favorites rallied past the competition in their group as they added a second convincing series to their tally, over Triumph.
Liquid lived up to their status in Group A with two quick wins
Over in Group B, Extra Salt took down Bad News Bears in a much closer affair. Peter “ptr” Gurney‘s squad were the first to strike with a win on Train but then hit a wall on Dust2 after being unable to shut down AWPer Josh “oSee” Ohm, before Nuke went the favorites’ way as well after they broke away from their opponents at 11-10.
Liquid and Bad News Bears are through to the upper bracket final in their respective groups in DreamHack Open March North America following 2-0 victories over RBG and Rebirth. The current world No.6 made quick work of their opponents despite Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo being handicapped with high ping issues as he is playing from Poland, while Peter “ptr” Gurney‘s side required overtimes on both maps to move past their ESEA Premier rival in a highly-contested affair.
Liquid got off to a dream start as they cruised to a 6-0 lead on Nuke before RBG began to put some rounds together. The ESEA Premier side managed to level the score in the second half after enjoying a period of dominance, but Liquid held firm and secured the map with an ace from Jake “Stewie2K” Yip. RBG picked up an early lead on Mirage off the back of a pistol clutch by Jadan “HexT” Postma, but once Liquid hit their stride, it was nothing but smooth sailing for the North American giants.
Liquid are through to Group A’s upper bracket final
With their confidence soaring following a 2-0 victory over Extra Salt on Monday, Bad News Bears left it late to claim success on Mirage after wasting a 14-11 lead and then letting a map point slip. Danny “cxzi” Strzelczyk and Zack “XotiC” Elshani led Rebirth‘s comeback efforts as the team recovered from a 9-2 deficit and pushed for overtime once more, only to falter at the last hurdle.
Bad News Bears will be without Jonathan “Jonji” Carey for the rest of the tournament as the Canadian will have to serve a mandatory quarantine period in a hotel due to COVID-19 restrictions. Jeff “RZU” Ngo will be filling in for the team, who will take on the winner of the winner of the match between Extra Salt and paiN in the group’s upper bracket final.
Jason “moses” O’Toole has been hard at work trying to bring Liquid back to where they were in 2019. They have been a far cry from the side that dominated the circuit during the first half of the season that year, with only three players remaining from that exciting squad that won the Intel Grand Slam Season 2.
The 34-year-old coach appeared on Sunday as a guest on the ‘HLTV Confirmed’ podcast and spoke about some of the team’s lingering issues and how he is still working to improve their mental toughness.
It’s been seven months since moses transitioned from a talent member to Liquid’s head coach
“I knew it was going to be hard because I knew when I took this job that it wasn’t necessarily a matter of Counter-Strike itself being an issue,” moses said. “I knew that the biggest obstacle was the objective to change the culture, the mentality, fixing the problem of choking, and falling apart mentally.
“That was one thing that I kind of highlighted as my biggest goal. I still haven’t achieved it yet, it’s always a work in progress. It certainly hasn’t been stress-free.”
Meanwhile, Liquid still had to attend multiple online events as the competitive calendar became even busier than usual amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They kept playing to see what they needed to change in the team, with almost no time to fix the problems.
“The online era caused a certain amount of issues,” moses said. “Like the small external problems involved in playing Counter-Strike online for what’s over a year now kind of caught me off-guard a little bit when we initially started. So I kind of went in with the mindset that this is going to be a ramp-up period, in which everyone is getting a little bit used to each other and working on some things, and then we’ll be ready to take those big leaps and starting running forward once LANs come back. And obviously, that hasn’t happened yet.
“If there is one thing that I learned very quickly within this team when I started coaching it’s how important nitr0 was. We always had the conversation on the analysis desk and during matches about how sometimes he probably didn’t get the credit he deserved as an in-game leader, how sometimes he was kind of an overlooked player on the Liquid roster, but he was like the cohesive guy, he was the glue, everyone on the team had some positive relationship with him in one way or the other.”
Liquid didn’t live up to expectations in the second half of 2020, their best result a runners-up finish in the IEM Global Challenge, Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken‘s final event with the team before he stepped down from the roster. Although the Canadian had been one of Liquid‘s best players since he arrived in 2017, moses quickly realized that Twistzz and the rest of the team weren’t on the same page anymore, inside or outside the game.
“Some of the things we worked on got better, and some got worse,” moses explained. “It was one of these weird situations in teams where I don’t think anyone was necessarily the problem. But it just got to a point where I don’t think it worked well enough in any way to fix it. The option was to spend months trying to fix this kind of problem or just get rid of it.
“It was not like he was the problem, but everyone together was a problem on some level. That was one of the main reasons why I decided to pull the trigger and move Russ on. I think that worked well for him as well.”
Liquid picked up Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo to replace Twistzz, with the Brazilian joining the team ahead of BLAST Premier Global Final, in January. After a disappointing run in the BLAST Premier Spring Groups in February, the two-time Major champion took over in-game leadership duties from Stewie2K, leading the team to a semi-final appearance in IEM Katowice.
“That change occurred the day that we were beaten by FaZe the second time in BLAST (laughs),” moses revealed. “The plan wasn’t always to have FalleN become the in-game leader. I think Stewie reads the game very well and he can be a great in-game leader if he ever chooses to be. The attractiveness of FalleN as a player to pick up wasn’t him just being an AWPer and an in-game leader, it’s just a lot of flexibility.”
FalleN is determined to revive his career in Liquid and be remembered as one of the best
moses admitted to being impressed by how quickly FalleN was able to settle in the team and get comfortable enough in his new surroundings to pick up the baton. Many in the community had doubted that the Brazilian would be motivated after the turmoil in MIBR, but the 29-year-old has shown that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank and remains as ambitious as ever.
“Those concerns were fair and valid, I remember even having those concerns and speaking about them on broadcasts,” moses said, revealing that he asked to FalleN if he still wanted to win trophies. “He was focused on cementing his legacy as a player and his history as one of the best AWPers and in-game leaders, and finding himself another Major. That was obviously perfect for me, I want guys who are going to chase down a legacy.”
As far as objectives go, moses said that the team haven’t set any specific targets, but he stressed that everyone is aware of the lofty expectations that come from representing a storied organisation like Liquid.
“If you’re part of Liquid, even if we are struggling as much as we have at times over the past few months, the expectations and the goals are still to win,” he said. “We haven’t sat down and been like, ‘We have to win a particular event’, but ESL One Cologne is a big goal of mine and ESL Pro League is a huge deal for us. We also got the BLAST Premier Spring Showdown after EPL and we obviously want to qualify for the Spring Finals.”
You can access the full VOD of Sunday’s episode of ‘HLTV Confirmed’ below.