Natus Vincere shocked the world and booked a spot in the Intel Extreme Masters Katowice grand finals, following a complete trashing of Astralis at Spodek Arena, unfortunately in front of empty seats, as there was no live audience due to the coronavirus fears.
A match that was expected to end in two swift maps in Astralis' favour met only half the expectations as it did end in two maps, but it was not Astralis who celebrated the win, but instead the CIS powerhouse who stomped the No.1 team in the world into the dirt with one of the most dominating performances ever seen in a “Big Event”.
While defeating the best team in the world in the semi-finals of a major event such as Katowice is rewarding enough, for NaVi this win was even sweeter considering Astralis' coach claimed his team has a "pretty good gameplan" which should give Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev and Denis "electronic" Sharipov as little room as possible. But how wrong he was…
The series kicked off on Dust II, which was Natus Vincere's pick and it soon became clear why they picked the said map. NaVi got off to a strong start and took a commanding 3-0 lead on T-side. Astralis responded with a round of their own to reduce the gap to 1-3, however, failed to make any noise in the remaining round of the first half.
S1mple stepped up for his team and took control of the match with one of the best performance he ever had. Round after round, it was NaVi who came out ahead, slowly increasing their lead while ruthlessly tearing the Danish defence apart to secure a commanding 14-1 lead before the switch.
On the CT-side, NaVi added more misery for Astralis as they hit map point after winning the pistol round. It was now or never for Astralis, who opted for a force-buy, which yielded them four straight rounds, but NaVi managed to prevent disaster and put the final nail in the Astralis' coffin in the 21st round, sealing the series at 16-5.
Next up was Nuke, which is historically Astralis' best map and widely considered as their "home turf", however even that failed to yield them the results they were looking for.
Astralis started Nuke by winning the pistol round, only to see NaVi bag the next five rounds, once more securing themselves an early lead. The Danes responded by winning the seventh round, however, it was too late to turn the match upside down. NaVi used the momentum to secure the remaining eight rounds, setting themselves 13-2 up before the switch.
On the CT-side, Astralis bagged the first three rounds to reduce the gap to 5-13, but it all fell apart for them in the 19th round in which NaVi responded by winning their 14th round with nothing but pistols. The CIS juggernauts did not hesitate to secure the next two rounds and seal the series with another 16-5.
It was a match that will go down in history as one of the biggest victories in a "Big Event" and possibly one of the biggest upset wins in the history of CS:GO. It was the sort of the match Astralis never lose, however, this Saturday, that was not the case. It only goes to show even the best teams can bleed, and today, Astralis learned how it is when you get stomped into the dirt.
While it's fair to criticise Astralis for their poor display, that does not take away from the fact this fixture was one of the best performances we have seen from Natus Vincere in years. Even NaVi star player s1mple went on to say that NaVi produced perfection, although it's unfortunate that no one was able to see the history being written at the Spodek Arena, which is empty due to the coronavirus concerns.
All in all, it's hard to overpraise Natus Vincere for what they have produced. The CIS juggernauts were head and shoulders above Astralis, who looked completely mentally broken after their realised they were no match for the firepower NaVi brought with them.
The best performing player of the fixture was no other than s1mple, who led the series in kills (43), damage (111.6), AWP kills (29), first kills (10) and had by far the highest rating at 1.79. His teammate Egor "flamie" Vasilev ended the series with 1.52 rating, electronic with 1.50, Kirill "Boombl4" Mikhailov with 1.16, while the newest addition to the team - Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy walked away from the series with a 1.05 average across both maps.
On Astralis' side, no member finished the series with a positive rating. Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz was the top-performing player on his team with 0.75 rating, while their In-game-leader Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander walked away with the worst rating across both teams at 0.64.
Natus Vincere are now set to enter the grand finals, where they will face off against G2 Esports, who eliminated Fnatic from the semi-finals earlier on Saturday. The IEM Katowice grand finals are slated to be played on Sunday, March 1, at 18:00 EET, where NaVi will be chasing US $250,000 in tournament winnings and their first LAN title since StarSeries & i-League CS:GO Season 7.