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Alonso’s Boniface mistake and other talking points as brilliant Lookman powers Atalanta past Bayer Leverkusen in Europa League final

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Ademola Lookman delivered a performance for the ages to help Atalanta claim their first-ever European title, beating Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Wednesday.

Atalanta’s victory in the Europa League final ended Bayer Leverkusen’s 51-game unbeaten streak in emphatic fashion.

Here are the five biggest talking points from the highly entertaining encounter.

Lookman, Leverkusen’s biggest nightmare

Ademola Lookman’s brilliance was the story of the night.

His hattrick shattered Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten run and denied Xabi Alonso’s team a historic triumph.

Lookman’s first goal came from a cleverly worked move following a corner, with David Zappacosta dribbling into the box and picking out the Nigerian forward at the back post. This opener boosted Atalanta’s confidence, and they pressed with such intensity that Leverkusen had no answer.

Lookman was a constant menace for Edmond Tapsoba and the Leverkusen defence afterwards.

His second goal, a right-footed curler after cutting inside helped to further increase Atalanta’s morale and cemented the Italian team’s dominance.

The Super Eagles star’s hattrick was completed in the second half with a thunderous strike into the top corner, following a swift counterattack and a perfectly timed pass from Gianluca Scamacca. Lookman’s performance not only sealed the victory but etched his name into Europa League history.

Gasperini’s greatest career moment

Gian Piero Gasperini, at 66, becomes the oldest manager to win a Europa League final.

For a man who was just five years old when Atalanta last lifted a trophy, this victory was a career-defining moment.

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Gasperini’s adventurous and attacking style of football has long been admired, and this triumph was a fitting reward for his innovative approach.

Lookman rewriting the record books

Ademola Lookman’s first goal made him only the third Nigerian to score in the final of the Europa League, following in the footsteps of Alex Iwobi for Arsenal and Joe Aribo for Rangers FC.

Lookman’s second goal got him into the record books as the first African to score twice in the final of a European club competition.

With his hattrick, the former Everton winger joined an elite group, becoming the sixth player to score a hat-trick in the final of a major UEFA competition, and the first since Jupp Heynckes in the 1975 UEFA Cup.

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Interestingly, Lookman’s goals not only brought Atalanta their first European trophy but also ended a 61-year wait for silverware.

Gasperini outwitting Xabi Alonso

Gasperini’s tactical acumen was on full display. His game plan stifled a Leverkusen side that had not tasted defeat all season.

Atalanta’s high pressing and relentless pressure from the first whistle ensured Leverkusen had no time or space on the ball, effectively neutralizing their attack.

The Serie A side’s performance was a tactical masterclass. Gasperini’s strategy asked his players to execute a specific job, and they delivered flawlessly.

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While Alonso kept his best strikers – Victor Boniface and Patrik Schick – on the bench until the second half, Gasperini unleashed his Nigerian import from the start and got rewarded beautifully. 

The high pressing, combined with Lookman’s clinical finishing, made it a night to remember for Atalanta fans.

The end of Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten run in Europe

Bayer Leverkusen entered the final with an impressive record, having been behind by two goals four times this season without losing any of those matches.

Their unbeaten streak spanned 51 games, including an undefeated Bundesliga campaign and deep runs in both the Europa League and the German Cup.

However, on this night, Ademola Lookman and Atalanta proved too formidable.

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Leverkusen, who had prided themselves on their resilience and invincibility, found themselves outclassed and outplayed.

Atalanta’s triumph was not just about ending Leverkusen’s streak; it was a testament to their own growth and resilience.

The victory will be remembered as a landmark achievement in the club’s history, propelled by Lookman’s unforgettable hat-trick and Gasperini’s tactical brilliance.

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