Liquid, Astralis, and Virtus.pro have expectedly made playoffs during ESL Pro League Season 13. But Virtus.pro, the favorites of Group D, had to be content with third place.
Following IEM Katowice, VP seemed destined to climb to first place once again. Back then, they had set themselves on top of Astralis and Team Liquid, only to lose the Grand Finals to Gambit Esports. But this time around, Gambit weren’t there to stop them, so Dzhami “Jame” Ali and his men should have had an easier time.
ASTRALIS HAVE A ROUGH START
In the last few months, the Danes had to struggle with some minor issues in form. While the team never really dropped the ball entirely, a Quarter Finals exit at IEM Katowice was definitely not a worthy display. So the players had quite something to prove in EPL Group D, but they kicked off their tournament run with a defeat on the first day already.
That wasn’t even against one of the favorites, for that matter! On a one-sided third map, Evil Geniuses beat the Danish powerhouse and placed themselves at the top of the standings. However, the North American team then went on to lose all of their engagements, while Astralis powered through their EPL Group D campaign with four straight match victories.
Team Liquid put up quite a fight and the 2-0 score really doesn’t tell the full story. On both Maps, Gabriel “Fallen” Toledo and his men pulled through to overtime, but failed right before the finish line. So at least one favorites of the group was already down, but Astralis were still awaiting Virtus.pro, who at that point had already amassed two victories.
ASTRALIS DEFEAT THE TOP FAVORITES
Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander helped his team to a 16-13 finish on Inferno with an unusually strong performance. Even Jame failed to compete with that, and the rest of his team recorded negative KD ratios. On Train, VP easily got in the lead. After an 11-4 scoreline, they got into the second half and were confident in their eventual victory. However, they were too sure too fast, as the Danes brought all the rounds back on their CT side. Jame and his men couldn’t even react before they were already in overtime. There, both teams pulled tight for 18-18 and 21-21 scorelines. In the very last round, Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis managed to hold the defuse and kept Emil “Magisk” Reif from extending the map into yet another overtime.
So after a 25-23 victory, Virtus.pro forced Astralis onto a third map. There, they still had a chance to finally take this match over. After an equal first half on Vertigo, their outlook was great. But arriving on the T side, Astralis developed a tight grip onto the game and with two knife kills, they ended the match in their favor on a 16-9 scoreline. Both favorites and proper competitors in Group D were thus defeated already. They had little trouble dispatching of fnatic and Endpoint, which eventually secured them a 4-1 finish for the EPL Group Phase.
Here's the final #ESLProLeague group D standings!
— ESL Counter-Strike (@ESLCS) March 29, 2021
LIQUID AND VIRTUS.PRO REACH PLAYOFFS
This was obviously a great disappointment for the top favorites of the group. With a victory over Astralis, VP could have set their sights on first place, but unfortunately they were out of luck. Things got even worse for the Eastern European team, though.
Liquid had also smelled blood. Following victories over the weaker rosters in the bracket, they had only suffered two overtime losses to Astralis. Fallen and his men felt confident on their last match day, as Virtus.pro didn’t stand a chance. On the first map, Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski forced a 16-13 victory with a 1.60 rating and 30 kills. On Vertigo, YEKINDAR turned into a higher gear. With a 140 ADR, he was the strongest player on the server, but unfortunately, his team didn’t pull through for him. On the other camp, ELiGE again secured a second 16-13 win for Liquid.
So Virtus.pro were eventually beaten down to third place. Due to their head-to-head disadvantage against Astralis, Liquid only managed to climb to second place. The Danes are now heading to the Play-Ins, where they will face Gambit next. While their placement grants them a Top 6 finish at the very least, they can still qualify to the Semi Finals directly by beating Abay “Hobbit” Khassenov and his men.
It's been 20 days but the #ESLProLeague group stage is complete!
Here are all 12 playoff teams!
— ESL Counter-Strike (@ESLCS) March 29, 2021
But first, all teams are heading for a break. The playoffs participants get a little breather. They can collect themselves and begin their preparations for the bracket, which will involve 12 top teams. Can Gambit, the winners of IEM Katowice, really pull through again? Or will they receive their first defeat at the hands of Astralis already?