How far can the LEC dark horse go?

FC Schalke 04 Sweep SK Gaming in LEC Playoffs

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S04 vs SK

The German clash kicks off the LEC playoffs. Image credit: Riot Games

The miracle run continues as the once dead last Schalke did not drop a single game in the opening series of the LEC 2020 summer playoffs The Royal Blues outdrafted and outfought SK Gaming, leaving no doubts as to which was the better team.

The LEC 2020 Summer Playoffs started on Friday with the first series in the lower bracket between the sixth seed FC Schalke 04 and fifth seed SK Gaming. Based on seed number and wins in the regular season, SK should have been the favorites in this clash of the LEC’s two German teams, but Schalke’s long winning streak that let them grasp the last playoff spot showed the team was in great form.

Game One started with SK Gaming throwing their opponents a curveball and opting for a laneswap with aggressive invades. However, this did not faze Schalke and they came out of the early game with a lead. SK were getting outplayed consistently in teamfights, and their quirky team composition fell behind.

Video credit: Riot Games

An SK attempt to catch Schalke’s bot lane 21 minutes in resulted in a 3:0 for the Royal Blues as they collapsed and gave them a free Baron. With it, they dismantled the enemy base to end the game in just under 25 minutes.

SK looked to have gotten a better start in game two, where they survived an early roam and then got two kills in the first six minutes. However, Schalke had the much stronger early pressure and after a teamfight win 13 minutes in had a nearly 2.5K gold lead. The teams continued brawling in the mid-game with several close fights. As time went on, S04 started getting the upper hand and their carries, especially mid laner Felix "Abbedagge" Braun on Orianna, were too much for SK to handle. 29 minutes in they caught the enemy bot lane, then secured the baron and got two more kills after the rest of SK tried to contest. The game went on for some 36 minutes until Schalke got a 4:1 fight after a desperate engage by SK and took the Nexus.

The third game once more had an explosive start. The teams had a big clash in the bot lane just six minutes in and Abbedagge's Azir ran amok, deciding the fight with a beautiful ultimate and getting a very early triple kill. However, SK had good objective pressure and with several good skirmishes equalized the game. Just as importantly, Juš "Crownshot" Marušič got four kills on his Kog’Maw just 13 minutes in and the teams were virtually even as the mid-game started.

Video credit: Riot Games

As the teams maneuvered around the dragon, a great Hemoplague by Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu’s Vladimir weakened SK’s bot lane, allowing Abbedagge to finish the job with another great Azir ultimate that caught both enemy carries just as their stasis ended. Schalke got the dragon and a Baron off this fight and took the mid inhibitor shortly afterwards. They remained in control until a decisive fight around the 30 minutes in saw them end the game and sweep their rivals.

With a loss in the lower bracket, SK is now out of the playoffs. While this is no doubt a disappointing end to their season, both the overall result and the games themselves made clear they were the weaker team on the day. Meanwhile, the Schalke squad continues their winning streak with a great performance. Their next opponent will be the lower seed of the two teams that lose this weekend’s upper bracket games, with a Worlds spot on the line.

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Boyan Penev

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