With the Pro League Finals finally returning to Europe after Season 5, the excitement was palpable in the Palazzo del Ghiaccio in Milan. Four exciting quarter-final games were to be played on the first day, starting off with NORA-Rengo vs Fnatic, and ending with Evil Geniuses vs Immortals.
Quarter-Final 1: Fnatic 2-0 NORA-Rengo
Maps: Border (8-7), Clubhouse (7-6), Consulate (Not Played)
Fnatic: Magnet, Virtue, RizRaz, Lusty, Acez
NORA-Rengo: Merieux, Ramu, Papilia, ReyCyil, YoshiNNGO
The day started off just sometime after noon, with the two APAC teams duking it out for the seventh time since the Season 6 APAC Finals. While this match meant that half of the APAC contingent would be certain to be eliminated, it also guaranteed one team to be progressing to the semi-finals.
Many were excited to see NORA-Rengo in action with their newest addition, YoshiNNGO, especially against Fnatic's star player, Virtue. Initially, though, it seemed that NORA-Rengo had forgotten to turn up. On attack on Border, NORA-Rengo seemed absolutely disjointed, and it seemed that swapping JJ out had not had the effect they had wanted. While with Wokka they had seemed unstoppable, the new-look lineup was struggling and was quickly down 1-5.
Their fortunes would suddenly see a reversal on defense, though, with YoshiNNGO and the rest of NORA-Rengo suddenly coming to life. Spurred on by a 1v4 clutch by ReyCyil, Fnatic suddenly looked shaken, and against all odds, NORA-Rengo forced overtime. However, Virtue was determined not to let the map slip from their grasp, and dragged Fnatic over the line, equalling karzheka's all-time kill record on LAN, although that was set in infinite overtime across 22 rounds.
Clubhouse was predicted to be a mistake for NORA-Rengo, but the Japanese made sure that Fnatic did not feel comfortable. While the first two rounds going to NR, a concerted team effort from Fnatic kept them honest. While the Australians were unable to close things out in regular time, it was in overtime that they finally got the job done and secured a berth in the semi-finals.
Quarter-Final 2: Team Empire 2-0 DarkZero Esports
Maps: Bank (8-7), Oregon (7-3), Border (Not Played)
Team Empire: ShepparD, JoyStiCK, karzheka, Scyther, Dan
DarkZero: Mint, Hotancold, Nyx, BC, Jarvis
Next up was another team that had made a recent, sizeable roster change -- Team Empire -- against fan-favourites DarkZero. Just under a month ago, Shockwave had been dropped from the European team, with Dan having replaced him, and it was unclear how they would perform.
As it turned out, there was nothing for Team Empire to worry about -- though it certainly seemed that way at first. On Bank, DarkZero brought the fight to their highly favoured opponents, trading round for round, before leaping slightly ahead on match point at 6-4. However, Dan showed that his new team had made no mistake signing him and was instrumental in taking four rounds out of the next five, first forcing overtime and then winning the map outright.
Having won on DarkZero's map pick, Team Empire were more than comfortable on their own pick of Oregon -- a choice that was already seeming to be a mistake even before the game had begun, given the Eastern Europeans' prowess on the map. Once again, Dan proved that he was certainly no downgrade from Shockwave, and DarkZero were given little to work with save for three rounds as Empire progressed to set up a date with Fnatic in the semi-finals.
Quarter-Final 3: FaZe Clan 2-0 LeStream Esport
Maps: Bank (8-6), Oregon (7-3), Villa (Not Played)
FaZe Clan: Astro, cameram4n, ion , yoona, mav
LeStream: Risze, Hicks, UUNO, AceeZ, Alphama
In somewhat of a rematch from the Season 7 Finals, LeStream Esport came into this match with confidence after a strong online season. Their recent LAN performances had been little to crow about, and it seemed that they would turn things around in Milan. FaZe Clan, on the other hand, were keen to make amends for their Season 8 Grand Final map ban gaffe and win their first ever Pro League title, starting with a win against LeStream.
On FaZe Clan's stronghold of Bank, LeStream got off to a decidedly poor start. A marauding Astro quickly led FaZe to a 4-1 lead, but LeStream refused to allow their heads to drop and pulled things back to 4-4. FaZe would surge ahead to 6-4, however, but LeStream would once again pull things back and force overtime for the fourth map in the day. Keeping with the pattern, though, it was FaZe Clan's turn to win two rounds in a row, and thereby take the map after somewhat of a scare.
Almost exactly like the previous game, though, the second map of Oregon gave little trouble to the team already in pole position. As on Bank, FaZe Clan swept to a 4-1 lead, but there was to be no overtime like on the first map. Astro was once again at the spearhead, with the contributions from ion and yoona not to be understated, and the Brazilians moved to the semi-finals with a 7-3 map win.
Quarter-Final 4: Evil Geniuses 2-0 Immortals
Maps: Oregon (7-3), Coastline (8-7), Clubhouse (Not Played)
Evil Geniuses: Canadian, Geoometrics, Necrox, nvK, Yung
Immortals: MKing, Novys, cyb3r, pX, Bullet1
Coming into the match, Necrox had said to SiegeGG that these Pro League Finals were "certainly not a do-or-die", but his post-match comments to Matt Andrews -- that he and his team were “f***ing tired of losing” -- betrayed just how much this meant to him and his team. Immortals, on the other hand, were looking to clear their reputation as LAN underperformers, and carry over their strong online form to Milan.
The final game of the night had an opposite storyline as to the first three. With Immortals seemingly making an error by bringing Evil Geniuses to Oregon like NORA-Rengo and DarkZero had done against their opponents, the North Americans gave their Southern rivals little chance to make their mark. Running particularly rampant was nvK who ensured that his team would take the first map by a decisive 7-2 scoreline.
However, no Milan quarter-final was complete without an overtime map, it seemed. Playing into Coastline’s attacker-sided reputation, it was Evil Geniuses who took the first half 4-2 on attack. Unfortunately for them, this would be no walk in the park like Oregon, as Immortals would win their attacking half by a score of 4-2 to push things to overtime.
A third map threatened to extend the proceedings, but with Immortals on match point at 7-6 and in control of the round on defense, Necrox charged into the bomb site and took three vital kills to keep their undefeated streak against Latin American teams ongoing.
Catch all of the remaining action later today from 1:30 PM CET, and be sure to check back here at SiegeGG for more coverage of the Season 9 Finals.