After all the talk, predictions, new arrivals and hype, Elite Series Season 3 is finally underway and Week 1 is in the books. With so many questions to be answered, it was always going to be a highly intriguing weekend of action. Which teams would hit the ground running fastest? With a new shorter league format, who would start their season with an all-important win? Let's break down all the results from a breathless Week 1 of Season 3.
Hashtag United got their campaign off to a winning start with a 2-0 win over fellow newcomers Vitality in the very first Elite Series FIFA 18 match. A team heralded by many as favourites for the championship, Hashtag actually had to work a lot harder than the scoreline suggests. Hashtag Ryan survived some close calls in the first game vs Brian before second-half goals sealed a 2-0 win, and Agge actually found himself 1-0 down vs Moolzn in the second leg before fighting back to a 2-1 victory. Hashtag survive their first test – for Vitality, they can take heart for pushing one of the strongest teams in the competition all the way across both games.
Envy picked up a 2-0 win over exceL in a very entertaining matchup. The first leg featured goals galore, with the lead changing hands multiple times before Aero finally clinched a 3-2 victory over Painter in a game that felt more like musical chairs. EisVogel came from 1-0 down in game 2 to seal a 2-1 win over Kev96 in another exciting contest, the whole match serving as a great advertisement for positive, attacking FIFA play.
AS Roma FNATIC and Method battled to a 1-1 draw in a match that made history for perhaps the wrong reasons. FNATIC's Poacher earned the first red card in Elite Series FIFA history in the first leg with a clumsy challenge, losing CR7 just moments after using the same player to level scores against FWPricey. Despite this, it looked like Poacher might be able to survive with 10 men for most of the game, until FWPricey finally clinched the first leg 2-1 with a late winning goal. Zimme then stepped up to dominate the second game, thrashing FWZelonius 4-1 to bounce back from the first game disappointment.
In perhaps the most surprising result of Week 1, UNILAD were held to a draw by an impressive Epsilon. As the reigning FIFA Interactive World Champion, Gorilla started the first game as huge favourite - but Epsilon's Fully obviously hadn't read the script. He wore down Gorilla in a gritty performance, breaking the deadlock on 49 minutes and surviving to clinch a fully deserved 2-0 victory with a cheeky chipped goal on the final whistle. It was up to Shellz to rescue a point for UNILAD, and he did just that by defeating Dingo 2-0 in game 2 in a controlled and skillful performance. Honours even, then – and for UNILAD's opponents, a reminder that favourites or not, this team are human after all.
Vitality got their campaign up and running with a 3-1 victory over Nordavind, as they were made to work hard by the Norwegian newcomers. Vitality came in with a lot of hype behind them, but had to sub in Gnagflow06 at the last moment as Paschy90 fell ill – and Nordavind more than held their own. However, from game 3 onwards it was all Vitality as they showed great goal scoring prowess and cruised home. Nordavind can take a huge amount of heart from this performance though – they will be a thorn in any team's side this season.
The match of Week 1 was unquestionably our next contest; a thrilling battle between Hashtag United and Envy which the latter team eventually clinched 3-2. Led by the returning star Doomsee, Hashtag United started stronger, but Envy demonstrated cool heads and clinical finishing across the entire match. Newcomer Neqzo announced himself to the world with some fabulous goals and interceptions, and former Elite Series semi-finalist EyeIgnite brought all his skills and nerveless finishing to the table.
Epsilon's fresh-faced lineup provided the biggest shock of Week 1, as they blew away ARES 3-0 in a major statement of intent. Epsilon's new-look roster was entirely rebuilt using star graduates from the most recent Challenger Series, and the enormity of Pugsay, FaykoW and D7's performances on their Elite Series debut cannot be overstated. Against an ARES team containing two former champions in Tinny and Cheerio and a former semi-finalist in Sebadam, they showed huge amounts of aggression and energy to demolish their illustrious opponents in straight sets. It took until 30 seconds to go in the final game for ARES to even register a single goal, such was Epsilon's dominance – but with Tinny and Cheerio historically being slow starters, it would be unwise to write off this ARES squad just yet. Nevertheless, the day belonged to Epsilon, as they put the entire division on notice in spectacular fashion.
With a similarly star-studded lineup, Method were determined not to suffer the same fate as ARES, and they prevailed 3-0 over UNILAD in Week 1's final match. Every game was close on the scoreboard, and UNILAD certainly got stuck in against their illustrious opponents. Speed and Calix in particular showed great combinations and goal scoring technique time and again. However, a team containing two defending champions from Season 2 in Rix Ronday and Borito B alongside a Season 1 champion in Shakahron had plenty of big game experience to call upon, and Shakahron in particular called on all of his experience to grab crucial goals time and again and see his team home. This wasn't quite the one-sided beatdown the scoreline suggests, but Method have survived their first test of Season 3 regardless.
Street Fighter V
In Week 1's first match, FNATIC stormed to a brutal 4-0 victory over Epsilon. With FNATIC's lineup containing Season 2 finalist Akainu and semi-finalist Shakz in their ranks, they were never lacking for talent, and both players alongside Brick delivered their A game to blow away their opponents in a display of supreme focus, skill and controlled aggression.
ARES' 4-1 victory over crowd favourites UNILAD was a definite statement of intent. Both sides had players making their Elite Series debuts with great records in international SFV competition, and it was ARES' newcomers Will2Pac and Abdess who made the difference. Lead by Nasty Nas, they put in spectacular performances to ultimately overwhelm UNILAD's Cobelcog and Season 2 breakout star Boltstrike. VegaPatch ensured it wasn't all doom and gloom for the people's champions and you can sense there is definite potential for greatness in this squad down the road. Nevertheless, this was ARES' day and deservedly so; they will be a match for anyone as the season goes on.
In a shock to rival Epsilon's defeat of ARES in Rocket League, Nordavind destroyed former champions exceL 4-0 in a staggering performance. We saw flashes of SaltyKid's brilliance and confidence last season, and this was a team performance built in his image. But much like ARES earlier on, the big story was of two newcomers to the Elite Series in Momi and Phenom, both of whom outplayed their hugely prestigious opponents with incredible confidence and verve. A temporary blip for exceL, or a changing of the guard overall in Elite Series competition? The coming weeks will tell us a lot, but one thing's for sure: Nordavind are coming for the Elite Series' best.
In Saturday night's main event, Envy got their title defence off to the perfect start with a 4-1 victory over Vitality. The story of this match going in was entirely focused on former teammates facing off against each other: TKR departing the championship-winning squad to lead the new Vitality roster and doing battle against his old comrades. Any talk of bad blood between the two sides was largely unfounded as Layo showed nothing but big respect when he prevailed over his former wingman in game 2. Elsewhere, Linkxelo notched the sole win for Vitality in the opening round, but overall this was an assured performance from the reigning champions. Sterner challenges lay ahead, but this is an Envy team who have been there, done it and bought the t-shirts over and over again – you come at the kings of Elite Series SFV, you better not miss.
Week 1 is in the books, and we've started Elite Series Season 3 in white-hot fashion. 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: