ESL Pro League Season 16 Grand Finals Recap

Team Vitality winning ESL Pro League Season 16 celebrating with trophy on stage_Helena Kristiansson/ESL
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We look back at the incendiary CSGO action that took place on the last two days of Pro League 16.


Another amazing season of ESL’s flagship tournament has ended, and with it, a new winner has been crowned. The first Semifinal was one of the most closely-contested matches in the whole tournament, and although the second was a straight sweep, it still offered plenty of excitement in the form of a second map that went into Overtime. In the Grand Final, French organization Team Vitality locked horns with North American giants Team Liquid in a 5-map frag fest — two of which had to be decided in Overtime. 

If you aren’t updated about what happened in the Quarterfinals, here’s our recap of that. Let’s check out what took place in more detail without any further ado. 

Semifinal 1: Cloud9 vs Team Liquid

Cloud9 won their group to qualify for the Quarterfinals directly, but they had lost to Team Liquid in the Group Stage. This meant that the Semifinal was essentially anyone’s game. C9 looked extremely strong with several in-form players, but Liquid have always been a tenacious force of nature punching above the weight that others believe they can handle. This had all the makings of a potential ESL Pro League — and indeed CSGO — classic, and it delivered with three very close maps.

The Match 

Liquid started the proceedings by proving why they picked Inferno with a strong 16-11 win. After a powerful T-side showing during which they picked up 8 rounds, the American side managed to limit their former regional rivals to just 4 rounds in the second half to close the game out. Keith “NAF” Markovic led the way for the winners, undoing the efforts of Sergey ”Ax1Le” Rykhtorov who topped the server.

C9 came back strong on their own map pick of Ancient as Abay “HObbit” Hasenov joined forces with Ax1Le to complete a spectacular comeback. The CIS lineup had only managed 3 rounds on the T side of the notoriously CT-sided map, but their defenses were only cracked once as they won the game 16-13. 

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The tightest, most hotly-contested game of the lot, Dust 2 ended with the same result as Ancient, but in favor of Liquid this time around. Dmitriy ”sh1ro” Sokolov’s brilliant performance was outdone by Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis, and although both halves were extremely even for both teams, Liquid just about managed to eke out a win. 

Semifinal 2: G2 Esports vs Team Vitality 

G2 had shown great resolve to take out the might of Natus Vincere, and were, albeit arguably, the favorites coming into this matchup. Vitality had shown utter dominance in their own journey through the Group Stage, but their battle with Outsiders had shown plenty of exploitable weaknesses in their game. It seemed that the team’s individual superstars would be the deciding factors. 

The Match 

Lotan “Spinx” Giladi and Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut, the latter of whom was elected the MVP of the tournament, led the way for Vitality as the French clan destroyed their regional rivals 16-8 on Mirage. Vitality followed up a relatively wobbly CT half with a strong performance on the T-side to win G2’s map pick.

Inferno seemed like it would easily go to G2 and take things to a third map, but an absolutely brilliant comeback by Vitality brought things to a tie before they marched forwards to a 19-16 victory. Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov topped the charts overall, but Emil “Magisk” Reif and ZywOo stepped up to bring triumph for their team.

Grand Final: Team Liquid vs Team Vitality

Season 9 winners Liquid were back in the final to try and claim their second title, while Vitality, who had never won Pro League before, were gunning for their first. With a whopping five maps on the line, it wasn’t just a test of wits and reflexes, but also endurance. As anyone who has played five tournament maps in a row will know, this is no cakewalk — especially with thousands of dollars on the line.

The Match

YEKINDAR stepped up in a big way alongside Joshua “oSee” Ohm to bring victory to his team on their own first map pick of Inferno. Liquid were absolutely dominant on the T-side, and didn’t waste much time in closing the game out 16-7 once switched. 

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Immediately after getting thrashed, Vitality showed just why Dust 2 was their own map pick with a solid 16-7 win of their own. Once again, Magisk and ZywOo did the heavy lifting for the French-and-Danish squad, who had a strong T-side before shutting down their opponents on the defense.

The most intense match of the tournament saw Vitality take the third map after a prolonged war of attrition. Vitality’s incredible CT-side hold saw them go 11-4 up in the first half, before Liquid returned to bring the game to a dead heat. The teams then burned through two overtime rounds before Liquid outlasted Vitality in the third, winning 25-21. ZywOo had a beast of a game with a ridiculous 51 kills across 46 rounds, but the contributions of NAF, oSee, and YEKINDAR on the other side were just insurmountable without enough support.

The penultimate map of the tournament, Overpass, also went to Overtime. Unlike Mirage, however, the two teams had very even halves this time around, with Vitality managing to find a way out right at the end for a nerve-racking but successful finish. Once again, it was a battle between ZywOo and NAF at the top, which the Frenchman won.

It’s a mark of just how consistent ZywOo was throughout the Grand Final: he was in the top two for his team on every map and the best outright on the last three maps. Boasting an HLTV rating of 1.51 in the last map, he lifted Vitality to a 16-11 victory, and indeed, an ESL Pro League title. It wouldn’t be right to exclude the contributions of Magisk and Spinx, though, as Vitality put up a strong defense before outdoing Liquid’s score on the attack. 

Team Vitality winning ESL Pro League Season 16 celebrating with trophy on stage_Helena Kristiansson/ESL

Copyright: Helena Kristiansson/ESL

Join us again soon as we cover the progress of the IEM Road to Rio 2022 Regional Major Rankings.

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