A breakdown of the first day in Malta
The much-awaited 17th season of ESL Pro League has commenced, and although the first day of play for Group A mostly saw one-sided matches in four different 2-0 sweeps, the quality of the games was top-tier as usual. These will soon change to much closer affairs as bigger teams take on other juggernauts and weaker ones go up against each other, so things will certainly heat up as the matches in each group progress past the primary seeding. If you missed out on the action, here’s your chance to catch up in just a few minutes before you.
ESL Pro League Season 17 Group A Matches
A total of four matches took place in Group A on Day 1. Russian Major-winners Outsiders took on the rising power that is Mongolia’s IHC Esports, resurgent Swedish side Fnatic locked horns with Brazilian underdogs MIBR, embattled CIS side Cloud9 faced American muscle on Evil Geniuses, and world beaters G2 Esports fought Turkish hopefuls Eternal Fire.
Outsiders vs IHC Esports
It’s been a few miserable or middling months for the Russian Major winners since they won the Intel Extreme Masters Rio Major, and people are starting to wonder if it was all just a very well-timed fluke. Outsiders will have to put up a strong showing at this competition to prove otherwise. IHC meanwhile head into the contest with relatively little pressure, but they still lack the experience needed to be effective at such a tournament.
Following up from their past success on the map, IHC picked Inferno and began their T-side well. Outsiders weren’t daunted, though, and managed to take a decent 9 rounds on the defense. Things were pretty neck-and-neck in the second half, but Outsiders managed to hold their nerve and play their usual economy game to clinch their 16th round with their opponents still on 13. Evgeniy “FL1T” Lebedev and Pyotr “fame” Bolyshev were both in excellent form, with Dzhami “Jame” Ali and the others not far behind.
As was somewhat expected, Outsiders were absolutely dominant on Overpass. IHC only managed 6 rounds on the defense, and were all but locked out of the sites once they began their attacking half. It was an unceremonious 16-7 loss for the underdogs. FL1T once again stepped up for the CIS side, while Aleksei “Qikert” Golubev had a much-needed decent performance after quite a while. For IHC, Tengis “sk0R” Batjargal was the only person with a rating slightly above average.
Fnatic vs MIBR
These two teams have been fighting one another for much longer than most young players will know, with their roots deep inside CS 1.6. However, the Swedish side has had the lion’s share of success during the CSGO era, with MIBR getting their hands on only a few notable pieces of silverware since their inception. Fnatic were the favorites to win this, and it would take something special from MIBR to change that.
MIBR may have picked Ancient, but it was Fnatic’s map through and through. The Brazilians started well enough, but the Swedes came back strong for a 9-6 defensive half before claiming 7 out of 8 rounds on the attack to win 16-7 overall. Masterclass performances from Fredrik “roeJ” Jørgensen and Dion “FASHR” Derksen were bolstered by decent support across the board. At the same time, we feel that Raphael “exit” Lacerda’s attempt to balance things on the other side deserves to be commended.
On their own map pick Overpass, Fnatic had a solid attacking half that saw them grab 9 good rounds on the CT-sided map. MIBR put up a pretty solid offense of their own, but Fnatic managed to hold their nerves and get five rounds on the trot to finish the match 16-12. It took a group effort from Fnatic to win the game with Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson in the lead with the most kills, but it should be mentioned that young Felipe “insani” Yuji was a shining beacon for his team.
Cloud9 vs Evil Geniuses
C9 hasn't had the best start to the year. The team sidelined one of their old guard, made a meal of their Katowice campaign by losing to underdogs IHC, and just haven’t had a good result since the start of last year. Thankfully for them, they were going up against the shambolic EG, whose only real good result in a very long time was a single successful series against then-number-one team Heroic.
It was easy to see just how far EG have fallen, because Cloud9 made them look not like a Tier 2 team, but a semi-pro side playing a showmatch. EG’s pick of Inferno had them start alright, but the Blues soon got bulldozed for a disappointing 11-4 half before the CIS side closed things off unremarkably in the 21st round. Dmitriy ”sh1ro” Sokolov was beastly as usual, while Vladislav ”nafany” Gorshkov had a decent game after quite a while.
If EG had any hopes of turning things around on Mirage, they were soon dashed. Another 11-4 half followed, except this time C9 were on the T-side. The latter remained undefeated on the defense, and won the match 16-4 to obliterate whatever was left of EG’s morale. This time, it was Sergey ”Ax1Le” Rykhtorov and Abai ”HObbit” Hasenov who did most of the heavy lifting, with sh1ro also chipping in.
G2 Esports vs Eternal Fire
There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that this was a David and Goliath affair. G2 are at the top of their game and have been literally untouchable for the better part of a quarter of a year now, while Eternal Fire have been shaky and unpredictable. That being said, David did win, and EF had as good a shot at just about anyone since G2 didn’t know much about how they play.
EF’s pick of Anubis started well with the Turks picking up 5 rounds on the trot, but G2 didn’t get to where they are by choking (although that was a big part of their core before their recent rise). The current rank leaders picked up 10 on the trot to seal their defensive half, and went on to claim the required 6 within another 10 rounds to seal the first game 16-9. The game was a one-man show from young Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov, who finished the game with a 2.02 rating.
If m0NESY showed that he can dominate the game while his team is winning in the first map, he showed grit, maturity and resilience in the second game. G2 had a brutal 11-4 T-side half, but despite sealing their 14th round early, looked to be a little lost on their pick Nuke for the first time in quite a while. It took a monumental effort for them to close out the game 16-14, which is more than can be said for any of their previous outings on the map this year. Apart from m0NESY, Ömer “imoRR” Karataş and Buğra “Calyx” Arkın played remarkably well for EF.
Join us again tomorrow for a recap of the second day’s play, and check out more of our CSGO content, including guides, betting tips and more, while you wait.