EPICENTER 2019 – Day one recap
The opening three fixtures of EPICENTER 2019 are behind us, and with it, we got introduced to Vitality as the first team to punch their ticket for the playoffs, which they earned with a shocking reverse sweep win over NaVi in the final match of the day.
EHOME vs Vitality
EHOME and Vitality locked horns in the opening fixture of EPICENTER tournament in what was expected to be a rather one-sided bout, but it did not look like it in the opening map of the series.
The teams kicked off their series on Inferno, where the French squad got off to a flying start and secured a dominant 12-3 lead by the end of the first half, which suggested they will enjoy a straightforward series. That being said, it all turned sour for them in the second half, when they let down their guard and saw EHOME run away by winning seven consecutive rounds. At that point, it all seemed like we are in for an upset win, but Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut had other plans. He put his skill and talent on full display, put his team on his back and carried them to a convincing 16-12 win to seal the first match of the series.
Despite their struggles, while playing T-side on Inferno, things looked much more comfortable for Vitality on Nuke. TywOo and his squad entered the second map of the series with all guns blazing and completely decimated their Asian counterparts who ended the first half with only one round in their hands (1-14). Suffice to say, Vitality did not take any chances this time around and sealed the series with a comfortable 16-1 win.
Natus Vincere vs Heroic
Following an exciting clash between Vitality and EHOME, it was time for Heroic and NaVi to entertain the crowd. That being said, there was some nervousness in the air, seeing how the home favourites are notorious for having a very shaky group stage starts, but on that day, Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev and co. distanced themselves from that stigma and performed up to par with expectations.
Heroic got off to a strong start on Inferno with a clean pistol round on CT side, which earned them a 2-0 lead, but the Danes soon found themselves overrun by NaVi who took a 3-2 lead. Heroic responded and won two rounds to reclaim the lead (4-3), yet that was where they hit a brick wall. NaVi turned on their jets and won eight in a row to secure a commanding 11-4 lead by the end of the first half. Heroic started the second half well, won the pistol round and even went on to reduce the gap to 7-11, but again found themselves on the back foot against NaVi who took the reins in their hands and won the map at 16-8.
Nuke more or less played out in the same way as Inferno. Heroic won the pistol round to earn an early lead but failed to do any serious damage in the remaining rounds. NaVi once again took control and ended the first half 10-5 up. The second half did not saw any surprises as it was fairly straight-forward for NaVi who won six straight rounds to win the second map (16-5) and secure a spot in the winner's match.
Natus Vincere vs Vitality
As day turned into night, it was time for the most anticipated fixture of the day to take place, featuring two tournaments favourites – NaVi and Vitality, who fought for a chance to claim a direct promotion into semi-finals.
For some odd reason, Vitality picked Dust2 as their map and they did not need long to realise they have made a huge mistake. The hometown favourites started the series by winning six successive rounds and before Vitality got a chance to realise what's going on it was already halftime and NaVi were 13-2 in the lead. Vitality managed to muster up a response in the second half, where they won two straight rounds, but it was too late too little, as they went down 4-16.
The roles were reversed on Inferno, where it was Vitality who got off to a great start, as they picked up the first eight rounds without much resistance from NaVi en route to a 13-2 lead by the end of the half. The second half did not see any shocking upsets, with Vitality needing only four rounds to win the map (16-3) and tie the series at 1-1.
Entering Nuke, momentum was on the side of the French team who took full advantage of that and went on to crush NaVi's spirits by winning eight straight rounds. NaVi had their moments but ultimately fell short as the ended the first half 12-3 down.
Entering the second half, all hope was lost for NaVi and it showed in their gameplay. The Ukrainian squad looked lost and failed to find an answer for Vitality's strong offence, who won the remaining four rounds in one clean swoop to seal the series at 2-1 in what was one of the biggest and most memorable reverse sweeps of 2019.
While shocking defeat on its own, it was s1mple's performance which left the CS:GO world in shock. On Inferno, he earned a disastrous 0.67 rating and went even further on Nuke, where he finished with his career-worst 0.30 rating
Having lost their match with Vitality, NaVi will be chasing their ticket for playoffs in the decider match, where they will face off against the winner of Heroic vs. EHOME fixture. The said match will be played on Thursday, December 19, alongside the elimination and decider fixtures of Group B.