Vitality are through to the semi-final stage of IEM Beijing-Haidian’s European division following a 2-1 victory over Heroic, exacting revenge on the Danes after losing the previous two matches against Casper “cadiaN” Møller‘s troops — the grand finals of ESL One Cologne and DreamHack Open Fall. Heroic overcame a poor start to the series — a painful thrashing on Overpass — to take the series the full distance after fighting back from two match points down on Nuke. Inferno was more one-sided than the scoreline might suggest as the French side dominated play for the majority of the game.
Cédric “RpK” Guipouy and Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut both played a key part in Vitality‘s hard-fought victory, but the nickname on everyone’s lips as the series came to an end was that of Nabil “Nivera” Benrlitom. The Belgian youngster was brought on for the final map and proved decisive with a 1.31 rating, earning praise from Dan “apEX” Madesclaire.
“I agree we’re playing good CS, even though we made some mistakes on Nuke and a little bit on the T side of Inferno, but the rest was really good,” Vitality‘s in-game leader said after the match when asked about the team’s impressive display. “Having Nivera stepping up — this guy is really talented, he’s like a small ZywOo. That guy is really insane, he’s really hungry to play more. He showed up and I’m really happy for the whole team. Everyone stepped up.”
The French team set the pace early on, racing to a 5-0 lead on the T side of Overpass, their map pick. A 1v2 clutch by Nikolaj “niko” Kristensen kick-started Heroic‘s recovery, but their respite wouldn’t last: Vitality continued to wreak havoc across the map, constantly opening holes in the opposition’s defense with key opening frags, with RpK ending the half with 17 frags to his name and a 117 ADR.
Vitality were unwilling to take pity on their stunned opponents and continued to add to their lead after switching to the CT side, with apEX picking up three quick frags in heaven in the pistol round to punish the Danes for a missed smoke. Heroic still attempted a response, but any round they won was quickly countered with a round by Vitality, who breezed to victory.
The French team carried their momentum into Nuke as they strolled to a 3-0 lead on the CT side, but then Heroic found their footing in the game and took the lead. Vitality battled back in the final stages to take a narrow 8-7 lead, with RpK once again leading the charge (16-11 score, 100 ADR).
Heroic came out of the break revitalised and won five rounds straight to get a firm grip on the contest. Vitality picked up the pace and hit match point at 15-13 after a spell of dominance that saw them cut through Heroic‘s defense with ease before the Danes fired back with two in a row to reach overtime and then four more after regulation to take the series to a third map.
Nivera came on for Richard “shox” Papillon on Inferno and he immediately made his presence felt, racking up 14 frags as Vitality went on a 9-0 run after losing the pistol. Heroic once again looked sluggish and off the pace, but they still managed to put together a few rounds to keep their comeback hopes alive as they switched to the CT side.
The second half began with Heroic pulling three back before Vitality responded with a streak of their own to get within touching distance of victory. The Danes tightened up their defence and gradually took the upper hand, but they were left to pay the price for mistakes in two rounds, with ZywOo putting the game away with a clutch on the B site.