The second round-robin in the 2020 League of Legends Group Stage began Thursday with plenty of drama coming from Group A.
North American hopes were crushed, then lifted, then crushed again as LPL third seed Suning (4-2) and LEC first seed G2 Esports (4-2) finished first and second, respectively,in the group. Here's how Thursday's action went down:
The day started with G2 Esports taking on Team Liquid (3-3) and getting revenge for their earlier loss by demolishing the North American side in 29 minutes. G2 committed early resources into shutting down Liquid bot laner Edward "Tactical" Ra's Kalista, sending multi-man ganks to the bottom lane early and often. Through this, all of G2 got massively ahead, holding a 7,100 gold lead at 20 minutes and finishing the game eight minutes later.
With this loss, Liquid had to win out the rest of the day in order to earn a spot in a potential tiebreaker. After that, Suning and G2 Esports took turns taking down the PCS' Machi Esports (1-5). The former won in 28 minutes behind an exemplary performance from top laner Chen "Bin" Ze-Bin's Irelia while the latter took the win in 30 minutes behind mid laner Rasmus "Caps" Borregaard Winther's Lucian, which posted a 9/1/3 KDA (Kills/Deaths/Assists).
Then, the moment of truth for Team Liquid: could they win in the clutch against Suning? Liquid pulled out all the stops with their tournament life on the line and upset Suning in 32 minutes.
Liquid got ahead early in a wild 3-for-1 fight at a little over a minute into the game when Liquid committed numbers to a late red buff invade. Despite this, Suning held an early gold lead through lane advantages in farm and turret plates. Liquid's bulky and crowd control-laden team composition made sure Suning never got to dictate the early teamfights, with Liquid constantly engaging on and locking down SNG's backline.
Liquid's win was secured when TL took a Baron buff and a handful of kills in a chaotic fight at 26 minutes before ending the game six minutes later. Tactical won game MVP honors as Jhin, posting a 10/2/8 KDA and dealing a game-high 20,500 damage to enemy champions, but everyone on Liquid shined as they kept their playoff hopes alive.
After Liquid beat Machi Esports in 28 minutes, sending the PCS representative home after going 0-3 in the second round robin, NA fans rooted for G2 to take down Suning so Liquid could play the LPL representative for the second spot out of the group. Unfortunately for both them and Liquid, though, G2 fell flat, losing the first matchup to knock Liquid out of Knockout round contention and then again in the Group A tiebreaker.
The first game was not remotely close, with Suning taking down G2's Nexus in a lightning fast 23 minutes. Both teams had unorthodox strategies in this game, with G2 support Mihael "Mikyx" Mehle running support Senna alongside bot laner Luka "Perkz" Perkovic's Kalisa and Suning's Bin running Camille with an unusual twist: taking Ignite over Flash and running the rarely-seen Prototype: Omnistone keystone.
Bin's build turned out to be the work of a mad genius, as he dominated G2 top laner Martin "Wunder" Nordahl Hansen's Renekton and took over the game through his immense side lane pressure. Bin finished with a 5/1/5 KDA and a game-high 16,900 damage dealt through mostly early-mid game ganks that transitioned into split pushing leads. With Bin at the helm, Suning picked up 17 kills to G2's four in the 23 minute win that sent Team Liquid home.
Then, in the Group A tiebreaker game, G2 put up more of a fight but the outcome was still the same. Suning Gaming, the LPL's third seed, took down G2, Europe's top team and a grand finalist at last year's World Championships, in 44 minutes. Throughout the day, Bin had put on spectacular performances where he dominated the early game but, in his last game of the day, Bin was punished early on.
Things were even for both sides, with Suning winning lane matchups and G2 taking early objectives. Then, at 16 minutes, Suning took a 3-for-1 teamfight that gave them a tower and a Rift Herald, and they were off to the races. Sure, G2 made them work to increase their gold lead, but Suning managed to pick up incremental advantages that would lead to desperate G2 teamfights.
Suning was ahead, but they couldn't deliver the finishing blow to G2, who was threatening to stabilize late into the game. G2 did well to deny Suning an early Infernal Soul despite Suning's map dominance, even securing the buff for themselves at 42 minutes. It was then that Bin, who had been quietly soaking sidelane farm and using Gangplank's Cannon Barrage ultimate to participate in fights from across the map, flashed into G2 and delivered a devastating Powder Keg combo, blowing up G2's vulnerable backline and setting Suning up to secure the top seed in Group A.
Despite the losses, G2 Esports will move onto the Knockout rounds as a second seed. With behemoths like the LCK's DAMWON Gaming (3-0) and the LPL's Top Esports (3-0) projected to win their respective groups, G2's slump could mean they have to play against powerhouse teams in the first round of the Knockout round. The Group Stage continues on Friday with Group B finishing their games.
--Field Level Media