Three years later, Team Liquid’s nitr0 gets redemption against Astralis

João Ferreira for PGL

Team Liquid fought off elimination at PGL Major Antwerp with a 2-0 win against Astralis. For in-game leader Nick ‘nitr0’ Cannella, it was a moment he had been waiting for since 2019.

nitr0 put his left hand on his forehead in disbelief, his coach, Eric ‘adreN’ Hoag, sitting behind him, looking just as shocked.

With Liquid trailing Astralis 9-11 on the second map of their elimination series, nitr0 found himself in CT spawn in a well-timed flank, ready to catch the Danes off-guard. He showed trigger discipline as he waited for the right moment to fire his AK-47 and reveal his presence.

But he completely missed the timing and was killed by Andreas ‘Xyp9x’ Højsleth with nothing to show for his efforts, costing Liquid the round. “That’s unforgivable,” caster Harry ‘JustHarry’ Russell said.

It is the sort of mistake that can get into a player’s head, especially when something as important as Major survival is on the line. A round victory would have seen Liquid drive Astralis’ economy into a ditch as the game headed towards its final stages. Would Astralis reverse sweep the series and continue to haunt nitro?

The North American player returned to CS:GO in January 2022 after spending almost 18 months competing in Valorant with 100 Thieves. Prior to switching games, he was on a seven-match losing streak against Astralis that stretched back to StarLadder Major Berlin 2019, when Liquid were the No.1 team in the world.

That quarter-final defeat marked the end of Liquid’s short reign. The North American team had looked unstoppable earlier that summer, winning the Intel Grand Slam in a record 63 days, but they came back from the summer break looking sluggish and out of sorts.

Liquid never found their groove again, and before long, nitr0 was on his way to Valorant, with Russel ‘⁠Twistzz⁠’ Van Dulken following him out the door months later.

This was nitr0’s shot at redemption against Astralis (albeit a different version, with only Lukas ‘gla1ve’ Rossander and Andreas ‘Xyp9x’ Højsleth left). And he would not let this chance go to waste.

‘Captain America’ steps up

nitr0 shrugged off the blunder and picked up four kills in the following round, including two in a 1v2 scenario. Shortly afterward, he pulled off another miraculous clutch with the score tied at 12-12, sowing seeds of doubt into the minds of Astralis’ players.

After such a long period of one-sided rivalry between these two teams — 9-3 in Astralis’ favor between January 2019 and nitr0’s retirement —, it almost felt personal to the Liquid captain.

Helena Kristiansson/ESL
‘Captain America’ keeps NA at the Antwerp Major as Liquid beat Astralis

The rest of the game was pretty much a stroll. Astralis could hardly put up a fight as Liquid took Ancient 16-13 to secure a spot in the Legends Stage of the Major.

With this victory, Liquid dealt a huge blow to Astralis, who do not make the top 16 of a Major for the first time since these events were expanded to 24 teams to include what was known before as the Offline Qualifier.

It also ensures that North America still has a word to say in the Legends Stage of the Antwerp Major after Complexity were eliminated on May 11, precisely by Liquid.

The road ahead will be much tougher for nitr0 and his troops, with teams like NAVI, FaZe and Cloud9 entering the fray. There’s very little chance that they will take a big scalp in the next stage. But in tough periods like this for North America, it’s as much about securing wins as it is about finding small victories. Today, nitr0 achieved both.