Lookman Breaks Leverkusen’s Streak, Secures Atalanta’s First European Cup Title

Atalanta’s Nigerian forward #11 Ademola Lookman (2L) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal of the UEFA Europa League final football match between Atalanta and Bayer Leverkusen at the Dublin Arena stadium, in Dublin, on May 22, 2024. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

Ademola Lookman was the night’s hero, as his three goals broke Bayern Leverkusen’s fairytale unbeaten streak and secured Atalanta’s first European Cup title.

Lookman became the first player in 49 years to score a hat-trick in a European final, helping Atalanta win its first continental trophy.

The Bergamo side has long been overshadowed by adjacent heavyweights AC Milan and Inter Milan.

However, they have had a golden era under Gian Piero Gasperini, reaching the Champions League four times and now having trophy to show for it.

Leverkusen has established a habit of late comebacks in their incredible march to their first Bundesliga title without losing a single game.

But this time, they were unable to dig themselves out of a hole caused by a poor start.

Atalanta’s more deliberate play in the first half was rewarded after only 12 minutes.

Davide Zappacosta moved to the byline, and Lookman caught Exequiel Palacios off guard before firing into the top corner from the back post.

The Nigerian has had a nomadic career, moving around the Premier League’s lower tiers on loan spells with Fulham and Leicester after being released by RB Leipzig.

However, Lookman has found a home in Bergamo, where he will be remembered as a hero for all time.

The 26-year-old’s second goal was worthy of winning any final, as he nutmegged Granit Xhaka and curled a thunderous drive into the far corner.

For the fourth time in seven Europa League knockout matches, Xabi Alonso’s side fell down 2-0.

Leverkusen’s flying full-backs have been the driving force behind their incredible season, and they should have been able to get back into the game either side of halftime.

Alex Grimaldo blasted tamely into Juan Musso’s arms before Jeremie Frimpong blazed over with the goal wide open.

Leverkusen were also denied a lifeline when Gianluca Scamacca was fortunate to just receive a yellow card for a reckless challenge on Florian Wirtz.

Alonso has quickly risen to become one of Europe’s most sought-after coaches.

The Spaniard has rejected offers from former clubs Liverpool and Bayern Munich to stay at the BayArena next season.

However, Alonso’s choice to start without a known striker backfired, and he brought on Victor Boniface after halftime to provide a focal point up front.

However, the damage had already been done, as the German champions appeared to be fatigued by their unprecedented run over three championships.

Atalanta were content to absorb Leverkusen’s pressure after the interval and then counterattack.

Lookman delivered the final punch with another spectacular finish, skipping past Edmond Tapsoba and blasting into the top corner with his weaker left foot.

Atalanta has lost all three previous finals under Gasperini, the most recent being last week’s Coppa Italia defeat to Juventus.

But this time, they would not be denied their chance at history, as thousands of blue and black-clad spectators screamed them across the finish line from northern Italy to the Irish capital.

As a result, they became the first Italian team to win the competition since Parma in 1999.



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