Gfinity Elite Series, Highlights from the second week of Season 3
The second week of Gfinity Elite Series Season 3 is in the rear view mirror, and unlike in past seasons, the compact league format means this week was a crucial one for several teams. Those who lost in week 1 needed to bounce back badly – two straight defeats could put any playoff hopes in jeopardy. Meanwhile, those who started well were looking to kick on and put themselves in a strong position – maybe with one eye on the top spot in their division and an automatic semi-final bye. With all that in mind, let’s break down the second week of action in Season 3.
Favorites UNILAD got off the mark with a 2-0 defeat of ARES. After last week’s slightly surprising defeat to Akima ‘Fully’ Byron, Spencer ‘Gorilla’ Ealing looked understandably cautious in his first game against Zac11Moore, absorbing a lot of pressure and grinding out a 1-0 victory despite having a weak penalty saved. Still not quite a vintage Gorilla performance, and arguably Zac ‘Zac11Moore’ Moore could have salvaged a draw with some late chances put wide, but victory was all that mattered for the FIFA Interactive World Champion. Shaun ‘Shellz’ Springette then secured all three points for UNILAD with a pulsating 5-2 victory over Mohamad ‘Mobacha’ Al-Bacha, in a game that Mohamad ‘Mobacha’ Al-Bacha actually lead twice at 1-0 and 2-1 with a performance full of attacking intensity and creativity. This only brought the best out of Shaun ‘Shellz’ Springette, and while he finally ran away with the contest in the closing stages, the scoreline was flattering; Mohamad ‘Mobacha’ Al-Bacha and ARES were perhaps unlucky not to at least get a point against the much-vaunted UNILAD side. After missing week 1, they will feel confident in getting good results as their season goes on. As for UNILAD, they are up and running with a first win in the Elite Series.
Next up, FNATIC got their first win of the campaign against Epsilon. After holding UNILAD to a draw last week with Akima ‘Fully’ Byron beating Spencer ‘Gorilla’ Ealing, Epsilon would have come into this tie feeling confident – but Conran ‘Rannerz’ Tobin stepped up to play the role of hype killer in Game 1 as he swept past Akima ‘Fully’ Byron 3-1 with a dominant performance, before Rasmus ‘Ralle’ Nyström prevailed 2-1 against Daniel ‘Dingo’ Kristensen in a much closer contest. This was an assured and comfortable FNATIC team performance which belied their draw and red card against Method last week – just what the doctor ordered to get their season going. As for Epsilon, they will be hugely disappointed, but last week’s point more than keeps them in the playoff hunt for now.
It was honors even in our third game of the night as exceL and Nordavind battled to an entertaining 1-1 draw. A close first leg was eventually settled in favour of Tom ‘Painter’ Painter with two late goals against Sabri ‘Chnewar’ Nait Slimani, before Diogo ‘Diogo_Peixoto’ Peixoto channelled his team-mate’s frustration into a dominant performance, marching to a 3-0 victory over Kevin ‘Kev96’ Connolly. With both teams coming off losses in week 1, their players had a lot to prove, and a point apiece is not the worst result for these two – but wins will be needed and quickly if they want to mount a playoff charge.
Vitality were desperately close to grabbing a first win of the season, eventually settling for a draw against Envy in a thrilling clash. A very tight first leg saw Ty ‘Ty’ Walton close out a 1-0 win over Marvyn ‘Aero’ Robert, a big performance from the player substituting for Brian ‘Brian’ Savary this week. In contrast, the second leg was easily the game of the night, one full of high drama and excitement. Debutant Jas ‘Jas’ Singh – a late replacement due to cancelled flights – took a shock 2-0 lead over Aurélien ‘Moolzn’ Cheron in the first half, featuring a goal after just three minutes, and by midway through the second half he was 3-1 up and cruising. However Aurélien ‘Moolzn’ Cheron kept fighting, and with just five minutes left in-game he had dragged the scores back level and looked to have secured all three points for Vitality. The game had one final dramatic twist though, as Jas ‘Jas’ Singh went straight down the other end of the field to blast home the winning goal and eventually prevail 4-3. This was an absolute thriller of a match, one that demonstrated everything great about competitive FIFA play, and what a staggering debut for Jas ‘Jas’ Singh. In contrast, poor Aurélien ‘Moolzn’ Cheron was visibly heartbroken at the final whistle, but at least his Vitality team get a point out of the contest as they share honours with Envy.
Envy kicked off Saturday’s action with an assured 3-1 victory over Nordavind. Much like last week, Nordavind started strongly and held their own in the opening exchanges against their illustrious opponents. But also like last week, they just couldn’t keep pace and eventually the quality of Alexandre ‘Mout’ Moutarde and Jordan ‘EyeIgnite’ Stellon in particular helped seal back-to-back wins for Envy to start Season 3.
FNATIC managed to edge out UNILAD 3-1 in a back-and-forth match. In many ways the scoreline wasn’t a fair reflection on the match, and UNILAD perhaps should’ve taken it to a fifth game and secured at least a bonus point – particularly after an incredible 5-1 victory in Game 2. But FNATIC’s clinical finishing ultimately helped them home; a highlight reel winning goal from Petr ‘Lauty’ Lautercrank in Game 4, from a goal-line block at the other end of the pitch, was a spectacular way to seal a good victory for FNATIC on their Elite Series debut.
There was absolutely no way the next game wasn’t going to live up to the hype, and the unofficial rematch of the Season 2 final duly delivered as Method and ARES put on an instant classic of a match. After a humbling Week 1 loss to Epsilon, ARES came into this contest as huge underdogs with the fascinating dynamic of Jamie ‘Tinny’ Sparkes and Daniel ‘Cheerio’ Bjorklund not only facing off against Season 2 champions Rix ‘Rix Ronday’ Ronday and Boris ‘Borito B’ Pieper – the latter of whom had NEVER lost an Elite Series match – but their former teammate Mitchell ‘Shakahron’ Johnson as well. Against this backdrop and under huge pressure, ARES produced an absolutely fantastic performance to down Method 3-2, showcasing unbreakable tenacity, brilliant defence and clinical finishing to go 2-0 up and then resist a Method comeback by clinching a heart-stopping deciding game. Method were frustrated in the opening games as opportunities were hard to come by, but finally hit their free-scoring stride from Game 3 onwards, and even led 1-0 for long parts of the final game. Then everything changed; after an outrageous goal-line scramble which should’ve seen Method go 2-0 up, new boy Sebastian ‘Sebadam’ Adamatzky scored two spectacular goals to completely turn the game on its head and seal the contest for ARES. Drama, last-gasp saves, incredible goals and unbelievable twists and turns; this was a Hollywood epic of a match, played in great spirits with plenty of respect between the two sides. And for former semi-finalist Sebastian ‘Sebadam’ Adamatzky, who was tasked to fill the big shoes of Mitchell ‘Shakahron’ Johnson, this victory will feel extra sweet.
Saturdays final contest was always going to struggle to live up to the previous match, but Hashtag United and exceL did their very best to do just that; ultimately the men in black and orange prevailed 3-1 in an absolute goalfest of a match. Both teams were highly attack-minded, and if anything the scoreline wasn’t a fair reflection on Hashtag, who came storming back into the match after going 0-2 down. Ultimately though exceL played with slightly more cohesion and sharp finishing, and that was just enough – Hashtag slip to back-to-back defeats to start the season, but hopefully with slightly more confidence and cohesion results will start to come for this highly talented trio.
Vitality bounced back from an opening-week defeat to topple the hugely confident Nordavind 4-2. Coming off a thumping victory over former champions exceL last week, Nordavind started full of confidence and Muhammed ‘Momi’ Berk continued the white-hot form he showed last week. But ultimately Ilker ‘TKR’ Dovanci and Florent ‘Linkexelo’ Dubois took control of the contest, dispatching Shivan ‘Shivs’ Dass and the irrepressible Elias ‘SaltyKid’ Ekberg and being rewarded for ambitious gutsy play over and over again. As the stereo Salt Bae pop-offs at the conclusion of the match proved, this is a team being formed in TKR’s hugely confident, highly charismatic image – there’s no overstating how important this victory is for the young Vitality team.
Speaking of big statements, reigning champions Envy made another huge one this week as they swept Hashtag United aside 4-0. Flying high and full of confidence after their Season 2 championship win, Envy have been on another level so far in Season 3, and Hashtag were unable to make a dent in the impenetrable armour. Not that there was much that could’ve been done to disrupt the stride of Nathan ‘Mr Crimson’ Massol, Alais ‘Layo’ Hardel and Nassim ‘Nassim-Claw’ Meslem, but a lot of focus was put on Jack ‘DarkMoonHado’ Scott post-match. He lost the opening game to Nathan ‘Mr Crimson’ Massol and didn’t get another hit-out in the match, and after his seriously impressive super-sub displays last season, it was fascinating to hear casters F-Word and Logan Sama openly demand a greater leadership role as anchor for Jack ‘DarkMoonHado’ Scott. He could still hold the keys to Hashtag United getting some big results this season – for now, they have to give best to the all-conquering Envy side.
ARES made it back-to-back wins to start their Elite Series SFV journey as they vanquished a determined Epsilon team 4-2. Wilfried ‘Will2Pac’ Jean Baptiste continued his rich vein of form full of sass and silky skills, justifying all the hype of his arrival to the Elite Series, and Nassim ‘Nas’ Mohammed was able to bounce back from a crushing loss to Anas ‘Keftaroz’ Houmaid in the first game and gain revenge to seal the contest out. Anas ‘Keftaroz’ Houmaid, along with his brother Rabiae ‘Takamura’ Houmaid and Younes ‘CCL’ Lazaar, looked improved from last week and were perhaps unlucky not to get a losing bonus point especially when the match was poised at 2-2. ARES, however, will have one eye on the playoff places after coming through two tough tests to start the season with flying colours.
In the main event, Method fought back from 2-0 down to prevail 4-2 over UNILAD in an entertaining clash. Stinging from last week’s defeat at the hands of ARES, UNILAD came out of the blocks at top speed and caught Method cold in their first appearance of Season 3, with Nicolai ‘AngryMojoSan’ Schneider in particular impressing hugely in his Elite Series debut by defeating Robert ‘Broski’ Livingstone. However, the moment Sean ‘ImStillDaDaddy’ Dench and his excellent Guile stepped up and took down Amar ‘Boltstrike’ Sangha in Game 3 everything changed, and Method’s superior experience and composure drove them home to victory as UNILAD couldn’t keep up the earlier momentum. Just like the previous contest, UNILAD will feel disappointed not to come away with at least a point from their endeavours, and though they slip to a second straight loss this season, this performance was a step forward. If Amar ‘Boltstrike’ Sangha can rediscover the confidence and form from Season 2, and Nicolai ‘AngryMojoSan’ Schneider and Alfonso ‘VegaPatch’ Martinez Pozo continue their development, big results should be just around the corner. As for Method, this was a strong debut for this potent outfit – Sean ‘ImStillDaDaddy’ Dench has every chance of making a third straight semi-final on this form.
The first fortnight of Elite Series Season 3 has gone by like a flash, and there’s many weeks still to go of action. Get your FREE tickets to come and watch all the action in the Gfinity Arena here, and you’ll also be able to watch live exclusively on Facebook every single week.