London Spitfire (9-5) vs Hangzhou Spark (8-6)
London Starting Lineup
Ji Hyeok “BIRDRING” Kim
Junyoung “Profit” Park
Junho “Fury” Kim
Jaehui “Gesture” Hong
Seungtae “Bdosin” Choi
Jongseok “NUS” Kim
Hangzhou Spark 3-1 London Spitfire
It seemed as if London had finally shaken off the rust. A 6-1 record in Stage 2 put the woes of Stage 1 in the rearview and gave the Spitfire the second seed heading into stage playoffs. That meant a matchup with the surging Hangzhou Spark, who finally fulfilled their potential on Thursday, taking down London and landing a date with the Shock in the semifinals.
Oasis: Spitfire 2-1 Spark
London started their playoff run with an uneven performance on Oasis, with a few key mistakes almost derailing them. On City Center, they fell behind when Gesture got pushed out of position by the Spark. Fury evened the playing field by eating Kyeong Bo “GodsB” Kim’s Graviton Surge. Despite running their score to 99%, London lost the stage when they left the point in overtime.
On University, the Spitfire again put themselves behind the 8-ball when Gesture got punished while trying to capitalize on Qiulin “Guxue” Xu’s low health. The teams then traded nearly all of their ultimates to no avail, but London secured the crucial kills afterward to secure the flip at 83%. The Spark saved ults to secure the overtime retake, but Nus booped Guxue down the pit, giving London the advantage they needed to win the point.
Hangzhou started Gardens with Shilong “Krystal” Cai on Bastion, aiming to burn down the Spitfire from range. London got aggressive and pushed straight into the bunker, taking down Krystal and capturing the point first. The Spark tried to stick with the Bastion pick, but could never make it work. London were simply too assertive and even won a fight through a Hangzhou EMP. Late swaps from the Spark were too late, and London took map 1 with 100%-0% on Gardens.
Blizzard World: Spark 3-0 Spitfire
After coming so close to winning map 1, the Spark responded with a vengeance on Blizzard World. A slight misplay from Gesture on the defense left him Discorded with Sungwook “Ria” Park behind him, and Hangzhou took an easy point A. The resistance from the Spitfire was minimal on point B, giving the Spark 4:26 to finish the map. Hangzhou continued to punish mistakes from London, this time capitalizing when the whole team attempted to chase a mispositioned Guxue, and finished the map with a massive time bank.
When they needed a strong attack to match Hangzhou, the Spitfire fell apart completely. They were trying to force their way through, but the Spark played patiently and maintained control. A few overextensions cost London dearly, allowing the Spark to build a massive lead in the ultimate economy. Even as Hangzhou flubbed a couple of ults, London couldn’t make anything of it and found themselves shut out on Blizzard World.
Hanamura: Spark 1-0 Spitfire
London’s woes continued on Hanamura as they could do nothing to stop the downward spiral. Their attack round left much to be desired as they were repeatedly repelled by Hangzhou’s staunch defense. Guxue was a menace on Winston, building Primal Rage incredibly fast, and keeping London off balance. Heechang “BEBE” Yoon got two massive kills on Bdosin, draining the time bank for London. A Graviton Surge from GodsB kept London from touching the point and gave Hangzhou a huge advantage with the full hold.
Hangzhou needed just 47.9% on point A to take the lead in the series, and they would not be denied. Despite losing Guxue early, BEBE found the equalizing kill on Gesture. Without their main tank, London had to commit Bdosin’s Transcendence. Unfortunately, it was ineffective and left London open to GodsB’s Graviton Surge. Calm under pressure, Hangzhou took the point convincingly and found themselves on match point.
Watchpoint: Gibraltar: Spark 1-0 Spitfire
London were backed into a corner on map 4, but on the attack, they had no answers for the Spark. Hangzhou continued to focus in on Gesture, and his early death was the first in a long first fight that gave the Spark a decisive ultimate lead. A couple of lackluster pushes later, London were on the verge of elimination. Ria put the nail in the coffin by eating Profit’s Grav, and they were held off the scoreboard for a third straight map.
The defense for London almost ended before it started as Fury was caught away from his team. London managed to save the first fight, but that was all they had left in the tank. Coming back in, Hangzhou forced out Bdosin’s Transcendence to save Gesture, and London could not sustain through the ensuing fight. The Spitfire had no ground to give, and the Spark closed out the series 3-1.
London had a tough time on Thursday night. After a solid start on Oasis, they crumbled under the pressure from Hangzhou. Gesture was bullied all match and came out looking worse for wear after the matchup with Guxue. Stage 2 showed signs of promise, but the Spitfire remain far removed from their triumphal Season 1 title.
Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.
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