Liquid have net themselves a win in their opening match of ESL Pro League Season 16, scraping together a win against Movistar Riders in a series that ended up much closer than expected. A comeback was required from Liquid to take their pick of Mirage, which they secured 16-13, but a 16-14 win from Movistar Riders on Inferno ended up forcing a third map which Liquid narrowly took over the line, 16-13.
The North American side had to contend with a red-hot performance out of the gates from Antonio “Martinez” Martinez on Mirage, who impressed in his first showing against top tier opposition under the Riders banner. Still, the Spanish team were unable to step up alongside their newcomer and ultimately conceded a massive lead on Mirage, but managed to recover by edging out a win on Inferno before faltering against a blistering performance from EliGE on Vertigo.
Liquid will be happy to come away with a win in their opening series, although the narrow fashion in which they claimed victory will be something to look back on when reviewing the tapes in preparation for their match against Evil Geniuses on Thursday. Movistar Riders, meanwhile, will hope to have a slightly better performance against FURIA, a series which they really will need to win if they want a shot at making the playoffs.
EliGE and YEKINDAR found key impact throughout the series for Liquid
Liquid‘s pick of Mirage marked where the battle commenced, with a T side start coming back to haunt them early on. A strong defensive line from Movistar Riders powered by an invigorated display from Martinez helped the Spaniards establish a firm 7-1 lead, a handful of lost rounds from Liquid occurring in tragic fashion as they let a few advantages slip away. Multi-kill rounds from YEKINDAR and EliGE did prevent a complete blowout, but Martinez remained a thorn in Liquid‘s side throughout the half and was key in securing his team a 10-5 lead at the break.
Movistar Riders further extended their lead to 13-5 following the side swap, a force-buy from Liquid in the second round almost turning the tides only for the Spaniards to narrowly take the win. Once rifles were in hand though, the momentum completely shifted into Liquid‘s favor, dominance from the rifling duo of YEKINDAR and EliGE preventing the Spanish inquisition onto bombsites round after round. The Latvian in particular had a stellar performance and was the driving force in an eleven-round spree for Liquid as they snatched away victory from the Riders, ending the map with a 32-20 K-D and 1.65 rating.
Inferno had a much more back-and-forth first half, with neither team able to hold on to a lead for too long. Rounds were traded back and forth as Liquid didn’t present a very compelling defense, mustering just eight rounds by halftime following some strong calls from Movistar Riders. Martinez‘s strong form continued on the map, but this time he was joined by Alejandro “alex” Masanet, who particularly found impact in the second half. There was a brief moment where it seemed that Liquid would once again prevail in the later moments of the map after EliGE demolished a setup in apartments in a key round, but Movistar Riders locked down their defenses and just barely edged out a 16-14 win to force a Vertigo decider.
Liquid came barreling into the final map of the series, racing up to a 7-1 lead on the CT side off the back of a handful of impactful rounds from Josh “oSee” Ohm. It was a 2vs3 retake that Liquid went for and ultimately failed at that turned the tides, the round crushing Liquid‘s economy and helping Movistar Riders come back into the map, winning the remaining seven rounds of the half to edge out a lead. Once the sides swapped over, Liquid again gained control, although they dropped two rounds to eco and low buys to keep the scoreline close.
Those rounds came back to haunt them as Movistar Riders began to rally back, and for a brief moment it looked as if the Spaniards would manage to steal the win; however, EliGE stepped up with a massive quad kill round to turn the tides, and YEKINDAR followed things up with double and triple kill rounds to help Liquid just barely scrape together a victory, 16-13.