Week 4 of the Gfinity Elite Series Season 3 was always going to be an absolute behemoth. So much was up for grabs across all three games – some teams had the chance to secure playoff places, whereas for others it was merely a case of keeping their playoff hopes alive for another week. Huge amounts of pressure produced an insane amount of high-quality matches – let's break down the fourth week of action for you.
FIFA 18A fabulous contest between two of the strongest teams in FIFA competition opened up the Friday evening session as UNILAD and FNATIC battled to a 1-1 draw. Gorilla survived a Rannerz comeback to win the first leg 3-1 – Rannerz was unlucky to immediately make a mistake in his own box moments after levelling the game late on, and Gorilla pounced with ruthless clinicalism. The second leg was a totally different story as Zimme avenged his teammate's loss, roaring into a 3-0 lead after just 20 in-game minutes on his way to an emphatic 5-1 win over the previously unstoppable Shellz. This was a phenomenal display from the man in form, and it clinched a vital point for FNATIC. Both teams now sit top of Group B on 5 points apiece – FNATIC have no matches left, but should be safely through regardless. UNILAD meanwhile have one more match against Method.Speaking of Method, they were involved in another high-quality scrap as they prevailed 1-0 over ARES. It was an epic comeback story for Method's players; Pricey had to come from behind twice against Janoz to snatch a 2-2 draw in the first leg, and from 2-0 down early on Zelonius lifted himself off the canvas to come storming back and overcome Mobacha 3-2 and take at least one point for his side. That one point could prove crucial; they edge into the final playoff spot on 3 points, just one ahead of Epsilon in 4th and two ahead of ARES in 5th with one week to go. It will all come down to an epic 3-way shootout for the final playoff spot next week.Over in Group A we saw not one, but two thrilling drawn games as Envy and Nordavind shared a point apiece. There was absolutely nothing to separate all four players involved in this contest, with Aero and Chnewar scrapping to a 1-1 result before an absolutely pulse-pounding second leg between EisVogel and Damie played out like a game of musical chairs – who would be in front when the music stopped? Ultimately it was neither, as one last equaliser in stoppage time from EisVogel ended it at 3-3. Honours even, and a point for both teams means like UNILAD and FNATIC they sit top of Group A tied on 5 points. With just a point separating the top four in the group though, it remains all to play for with a week to go.Hashtag United head Spencer Owen demanded a response from his players this week, and he duly got it as they clinched a 1-0 win over exceL. An untidy first leg saw Painter take the lead before being pegged back late on by Hashtag Harry, but the second leg was all about one man – Boras. In his first start in the Elite Series, he put on a jaw-dropping exhibition of total FIFA and blew away Kev96 5-0. Unfortunately this result eliminates exceL in their last match of the season; a record of three losses and one draw illustrates the unforgiving and ultra-competitive nature of Elite Series FIFA 18. Meanwhile just one point for Hashtag United means they sit 3rd in the table, tied with Vitality on 4 points and both teams just one point behind Envy and Nordavind above them. Hashtag go up against Envy next week with Vitality facing Nordavind; a huge amount is riding on both results to decide our Group B playoff qualifiers.
Rocket LeagueWe expected a great match to start Saturday off, and we duly got it as Method edged out Epsilon 3-2 in an absolute barnstormer of a match. Ever since they destroyed ARES in the opening week, Epsilon's rookie draft squad have proven time again that they are for real – and pushing the Method all-stars all the way further cements their growing reputation. They took the early lead and even as Method grew into the game, they kept getting pegged back by D7, FaykoW and Pugsay all the way to a super tense deciding game. In the end Method's big-match experience and highlight reel goals from Borito B just about saw them home, but this result and a losing bonus point for Epsilon means both teams are on 7 points – enough to see both teams into Playoffs with one week remaining.However, one team that won't be joining them in playoffs are Method's old rivals ARES. Their 3-1 defeat to FNATIC in Saturday's second match means that for the first time in Elite Series history, Tinny and Cheerio will not be featuring in playoffs. After previous inconsistent form, ARES were up against it coming into this do-or-die clash. And right from the off FNATIC had them under pressure, supersub Nalmon gelling beautifully with Snaski and Lauty to punish ARES' slow start.Cheerio's clutch goalscoring dragged ARES agonisingly close to a deciding game, but FNATIC were not to be denied as Snaski blasted home an overtime winning goal. With that, two Season 1 champions are eliminated from the competition; something quite frankly unthinkable after their epic win over Method a fortnight ago. Conversely this win secures a playoff spot for FNATIC as all three playoff places are sealed up with a week in hand – and with FNATIC just a point behind both Method and Epsilon, the race for top spot is well and truly on next week.It's a similar story in Group A; Hashtag United needed a victory to stay in the playoff race, but fell to a 3-1 defeat against already-eliminated Nordavind who finished their campaign on a high with a first Elite Series win. Whilst Hashtag have always had a hugely talented lineup, they've struggled to recover from a slow start to the season; and for a team that relies so heavily on momentum and confidence, it's been impossible to recover. Nordavind bounced back after losing the opening game, determined to go out with a bang and prove what they can really do after a similarly disappointing season. Game after game they played with flair and energy, and were rewarded – for Hashtag it's a devastating early exit, but like Nordavind they have a chance to end the season on a high next week.Saturday's final match was another fabulous contest which eventually saw Vitality secure their third straight win of Elite Series Season 3 against exceL. With the pressure of playoff qualification lifted off the shoulders of both teams, this was a crazy game that swung back and forth and saw plenty of goals from both sides. Gnagflow06 was once again a superstar super-sub for Vitality, scoring the winning goal in the deciding game with eleven seconds to go to clinch victory – one unbeaten run had to end, and ultimately it was exceL's by the finest of margins. Gregan's troops have been seriously impressive in Season 3 so far and lead Group A on 9 points with a week to go; despite exceL and Envy sitting just two points behind them, they will be huge favourites to win the group and advance to the semi-finals.
SFVThe Elite Series' own 'El Clasico' didn't disappoint as once again Envy and exceL went to war on the SFV battlefield – and ultimately Envy prevailed 4-2 in the fifth match in Elite Series history between the two sides. With exceL missing Brian, Hurricane anchored the side and won the opening set against Layo, but Envy were able to slowly take control. Isam18 came perilously close to taking the match to a deciding set against Layo in an incredibly close final game, but Layo denied him a dream debut at the death. This huge win in their final league match secures the Group A top spot for Envy, meaning they will advance to their third straight Elite Series semi-final – and take a huge step towards defending their title, and denying exceL a losing bonus point in the process. ExceL meanwhile sit 4th on 3 points, in danger of missing out on Playoffs for the first time in their history – their match next week with Vitality will be a straight shootout for the final playoff place.ExceL could've found themselves with an even bigger mountain to climb, but Hashtag United did them a massive favour with a huge 4-3 win over Vitality in the very next match. The importance of this victory cannot be underestimated for Hashtag; coming into this match they hadn't won a single set in Season 3 so far, and needed a victory to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. In lieu of all of this and up against a strong opponent in Vitality, Hashtag dug deep with JesterPower and MossMossMoss finding their best form. However, TKR once again anchored Vitality, and looked set to wrap up the victory in the deciding set against DarkMoonHado – an opponent he'd already beaten twice in the match. What happened next was utterly spectacular; low on life in the deciding round, Hado blocked and punished with surgical accuracy to snatch the win from under TKR's nose as time briefly stood still in the Gfinity Arena. After coming in for criticism in his previous performances this season, this victory would've been super sweet for Hado and his team. While they still sit bottom of the table on 3 points, their fate is still in their own hands; their match with Nordavind next week is a playoff eliminator.Speaking of clutch performances, you won't find any as spectacular this week as Epsilon. Winless in Season 3 so far and staring down the barrel of another disappointing season, they produced the perfect display to destroy UNILAD 4-0 and end their opponent's playoff hopes whilst keeping their own alive. Fresh off a huge win last week, UNILAD entered as the form team – but right from Keftaroz' opening salvos that blew away Cobelcog in the opening set, this was all about Epsilon. It wasn't even a case of UNILAD doing much wrong; with Keftaroz, Takamura and CCL on such invincible form, few teams would've been able to stand in their way. UNILAD's debut SFV season ends in devastating fashion, but the squad will be better off for the experience; here's hoping they get a chance to build on the promise they showed this season in such a white-hot cauldron of pressure.As for Method, they came up just short in Saturday night's main event against an impressive FNATIC team, losing 4-2. Whoever won this game would've secured a playoff spot with a week to go with the loser going into a do-or-die clash next week – and a FNATIC side which reunited former Prophecy anchors Zera and Akainu went toe-to-toe with a Method squad featuring former semi-finalist Gun Slinga making his first appearance of Season 3, with nothing to separate the two teams early on. From 2-2 however, FNATIC were able to edge clear as Akainu held his nerve against Broski and Shakz picked his shots smartly and was able to silence Packz to clinch the series. With this win FNATIC become the second team to qualify from Group B behind ARES, sitting 2nd on 6 points and with a chance to dethrone ARES for top spot next week. As for Method, they face a straight playoff eliminator next week against Epsilon for the third and final playoff spot.
With so many huge matches, the final week of league play will be absolutely unmissable. 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.· facebook.com/GfinityFIFA18· facebook.com/GfinityRocketLeague· facebook.com/GfinitySFV Adam Johnson