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Lookman hat-trick hands Atalanta Europa League title

Ademola Lookman scored a stunning hat-trick as Atalanta beat Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in the Europa League final on Wednesday to win just the second major trophy in their 117-year history and end the German champions’ remarkable unbeaten streak.

Lookman, who struggled to establish himself in the English Premier League with Everton, Fulham and Leicester City before reviving his career in Italy under Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini, struck twice inside the first 26 minutes before sealing the win 15 minutes from fulltime.

Atalanta wins the 2024 UEFA Europa League trophy

The victory ended Gasperini’s own two-decade long pursuit of major silverware as his side totally outplayed Xabi Alonso‘s formidable Leverkusen side – or ‘Neverlusen’ as they had been dubbed after going an incredible 51 games unbeaten.

But just as they did against Premier League heavyweights Liverpool and three-times finalists Olympique de Marseille in the previous two rounds, Atalanta didn’t give their opponents a sniff to mark their first European final with a famous victory.

Leverkusen started the game looking decidedly unsure of themselves and some uncharacteristically sloppy play handed the first chance of the game to Gianluca Scamacca, who didn’t get enough on his header from a fine Matteo Ruggeri cross.

It was an early warning shot and the purposeful Italians struck within minutes when Davide Zappacosta was allowed far too much space down the right before Lookman beat a flatfooted Exequiel Palacios to the cut back to stroke home the opener.

Ademola Lookman was the star of the night
Ademola Lookman lifts the Europa trophy high
Lookman was adjudged the Most Valuable Player of the final

Lookman was mobbed by his team mates and substitutes who were in dreamland 14 minutes later.

Another Leverkusen error gifted possession to the Nigeria forward, who skipped past one defender and curled a beautiful right-footed shot into the bottom-right corner from just outside the box.

The stunned Germans showed brief flashes of how quickly they can turn it on in attack but little came of it and it was Charles De Ketelaere who came closest on the break as Atalanta did not show a shred of debut final nerves nor any effects from the absence of injured captain Marten de Roon.

Leverkusen swapped defender Josip Stanisic for top scorer Victor Boniface at halftime but it changed little as both sets of travelling fans continued to create the kind of Aviva Stadium noise matched only by some of the Irish rugby teams’ famous wins or memorable international soccer nights of years gone by.

Leverkusen had only failed to score once during the run that featured 42 wins in all competitions and 17 goals scored in or after the 90th minute, but the chances of another comeback faded away against the resolute Atalanta backline.

Lookman completely extinguished them on the counterattack with another stunning strike into the top corner, this time with his left foot to complete his hat-trick, the sixth in a major European final and first since Jupp Heynckes’ for Borussia Moenchengladbach in the 1975 UEFA Cup.

He was flung into the air by his team mates 15 minutes later when the final whistle blew and the Bergamo club ended the 61-year wait since their 1963 Italian Cup triumph.

Report courtesy: REUTERS

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