3-2 against Fnatic: Team Liquid are your EMEA Challengers champions

posted by SmittyW.,
EU teams dominate in semifinals of the EMEA Challengers Playoffs and meet for an epic battle in grand finals. In a fulminant nail-biter of a grand final, Team Liquid defeated Fnatic 3-2 on Sunday, claiming victory at the EMEA Challengers Playoffs. The teams each played a dominant tournament, leaving their opponents no chance. As grand finalists, both will be representing the EMEA region at Masters Reykjavík in May.

ScreaM destroys OXG, Fnatic eliminate kingslayer

After winning their last group match against tournament favourite FunPlus Phoenix convincingly, Team Liquid saw themselves in the semifinals against Oxygen Esports. The Turkish team had previously defeated the Swedish top team Guild Esports, displaying much potential for upsets. However, what ensued was anything but a well-balanced fight: on map one, Haven, Liquid completely destroyed their opponents 13-0. Liquid's star player Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom hunted his enemies down relentlessly on his Battle Sage with an outstanding 20/4/7 KDA, despite having sleeping and back issues. This was the first broadcast VCT match in which a team didn't even lose a single round. On map two, Ascent, Team Liquid continued their relentless performance and ended the series with another astonishing 13-3.

The second semifinals powerhouse Fnatic met FPX killer Gambit Esports. The Russians defeated Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow 2-1 in a rematch during the group stage. Accordingly, Fnatic had to be careful going into the series. The team surrounding Finnish wunderkind Nikita "Derke" Sirmitev played a strong game on Icebox and claimed a comfortable 13-6 victory.

If fans had hoped for a more thrilling series after the first semifinals, they were not being disappointed: the CIS champion established a water-tight defence, fending off Fnatic's aggression. This time, Fnatic saw themselves at a 3-9 disadvantage after the first half. What followed was an impressive comeback from the Europeans. Derke and his teammate Domagoj "Doma" Fancev were key to Fnatic's victory and played a huge part in turning the map 13-11 in their favour. The second grand finalist had been determined.

Battle of titans: Team Liquid vs Fnatic

With Fnatic and Liquid in the grand finals, we saw a rematch of the two EU Main Event 2 finalists. Back then, Fnatic trumped their adversaries 3-1, so many experts and fans were hyped for this match-up. Whilst Liquid advanced to the finals with flying colours, we saw them in an entirely different shape on the series opener Haven, and conceded rather quickly 3-13 – even though the map was their pick.

ScreaM and his teammates didn't falter after this though. On Icebox, they met Fnatic with renewed confidence and showed more of the Liquid we'd seen in the tournament so far. The Belgian star as well as Sova player James "Kryptix" Affleck played with extreme confidence after switching to attackers, turning a 5-7 disadvantage into a 13-7 victory. Team Liquid went one better on Ascent. This time it was Elias "Jamppi" Olkkonen's moment to shine: him and his Fnatic counterpart, fellow countryman and co-Jett player Derke, went for a frag race which the Liquid man won closely with 21 kills, while Derke scored 19 times. Liquid boasted the better teamplay in the end, claiming another 13-9 win.

Although map four, Bind, was a matchball for Liquid, Fnatic wasn't intimidated in the slightest. Fnatic's captain Jake "Boaster" Howlett turned the enemy defence to dust, and TL was only able to fight back successfully after round six. However, this happened far too late, as Fnatic regained control over the map after switching sides and closed out the map 13-7.

So, everything went down to a final showndown on Split. Team Liquid started as strong as ever into the game on the attacker side. Their opponents struggled to find a counter, and lost round after round. Only when the score was at 8-0 in Liquid's favour did Fnatic show a sign of life. Team Liquid faced the same problems as their rivals after switching sides. But their advantage from the early game gave them the edge, and they eventually managed to close out the map 13-7 and the series 3-2.

With that, Team Liquid finally took their revenge, claimed €35,000 prize money, and booked their ticket to Masters Reykjavík – the perfect conclusion of a journey full of progress, struggles, and improvements. This journey will continue for both EMEA champion Team Liquid and runner-up Fnatic in Iceland, where they will fight against eight teams from the other regions to determine the true best in the entire VCT.

1stTeam Liquid€32,500Masters Reykjavík
2ndFnatic€15,000Masters Reykjavík
3rd-4thOxygen Esports/Gambit Esports€9,00045
5th-6thFunPlus Phoenix/Guild Esports€6,00030
7th-8thBBL Esports/Futbolist€4,00020

Teams qualified for Masters Reykjavík

Team LiquidEMEAFnaticEMEA
NUTURN GamingKRX10 EsportsSEA

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Photo credit: Riot Games