Astralis came back from a map down to beat Liquid 2-1 and win the eighth season of the Esports Championship Series (ECS).
In the ninth clash of the year between the two best teams of 2019 - the third in grand finals - Astralis passed the test with flying colors to lift their third trophy of the season, after previously winning the StarLadder Major and IEM Beijing. Against a Liquid team chasing their first title in four months, the Danes were out-thought in the draft and found themselves with a one-map deficit despite nearly pulling off a miraculous comeback on Vertigo. The Arlington crowd believed, but Astralis responded to that setback with a prodigious display of power and might as they out-fought their opponents in the next two maps.
Liquid are yet to beat Astralis this season after four attempts, with the Danes looking on course to end the year as the No.1 team in the world. "I think Liquid did pretty well, but we just want to show that 2019 or 2018 is just numbers and that Astralis will always be the best," Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander said after the match when questioned about the fact that the North Americans seemed to have grown in confidence in recent weeks. The two sides could meet again in just a few days, at the ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals.
Liquid's pick of Vertigo caught many by surprise, Astralis included, with coach Danny "zonic" Sørensen going as far as to say that his team had been "ambushed" in the veto. After all, the Danes had won all six games played on this map over the last three months, two of which against Liquid themselves (at the StarLadder Major and ESL One New York).
The North Americans delivered a statement of intent with a flawless CT pistol and followed that up with the next two rounds to grab a convincing 3-0 lead to delight the Arlington crowd. Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen then went huge as he opened up the A site with three key frags to secure the first round for Astralis, but there was no follow-up on his team's part.
For the rest of the half, the Danes looked lost on the map and sometimes even afraid to commit to bombsites. Even when they managed to break through the Liquid defense with nothing more than Desert Eagles, they were traded immediately back as they struggled to find holes in the North American defense. A 1v2 clutch from Jake "Stewie2K" Yip in the dying moments gave Liquid their 11th round of the half, but the hero had been Keith "NAF" Markovic with a staggering 22 frags.
The tables turned in the second half as Astralis came out with all guns blazing and shut down any chances of Liquid stringing rounds together, eventually equalising the score at 13-13. With nothing more than a p250, NAF came to Liquid's rescue with a trio of frags, inspiring his team to reach map point, before Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth did the same for Astralis, who cancelled out the home side's lead to take the game to overtime.
It looked like the momentum was firmly in Astralis' favour, but Liquid came out to dominate and won four rounds without response to secure a much-needed victory as they headed into the Danes' home turf of Nuke.
Map two began with a massive blunder from Astralis as they lost a 3v1 situation to Nick "nitr0" Cannella, who killed two opponents before defusing the bomb through a smoke. The North Americans rode that momentum to a 3-0 lead but struggled to sustain the pressure once Astralis had money in the bank. The rest of the half was highly contested as rounds went back and forth and neither side managed to stamp their authority on proceedings, with Liquid securing a narrow 8-7 lead after two victories towards the end of the half with low equipment.
Now playing on the Terrorist side, Liquid won the pistol round with a fast A execute and followed that up with the next two rounds to pile even more pressure on Astralis' players. The Danes remained unfazed, though, and put together a water-tight defense with guns in hand to put together a dominant run en route to a 16-11 success.
The first half of Dust2 was a complete blowout: Astralis were in control from the offset and ran all over the Liquid defense, cruising to a 12-3 lead after preventing their opponents from stringing rounds together.
Things went from bad to worse for the North Americans as they lost the pistol round, but gathered themselves impressively and put together a string of rounds thanks to some key plays by Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken, including a 1v3 clutch. But their comeback attempt would be short-lived as Astralis tightened up their defense and won three consecutive rounds to walk away with another tournament victory, their fifth of 2019.