Atalanta knocks off Leverkusen to win the Europa League

Thanks to a hat-trick from Ademola Lookman, Atalanta Bergamo won the Europa League on Wednesday by beating favorite Bayer Leverkusen (3-0).

Published on: 05/22/2024 – 23:11

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They defeated the “invincibles”. Atalanta Bergamo defied the odds to win the Europa League on Wednesday May 22 in Dublin by outclassing Bayer Leverkusen 3-0, yet undefeated this season, thanks to a hat-trick from Ademola Lookman.

After an Italian Cup won in 1963, this is the second trophy in the history of the Italian club, in constant progress since 2016 and the arrival of its coach Gian Piero Gasperini who patiently built it.

Bayer Leverkusen, for its part, irresistible since the start of the season, crowned German champion without having lost a single match, is deprived of a historic treble with this first setback of the year.

Xabi Alonso’s men, undefeated until Wednesday in 51 matches in all competitions, cannot feel sorry for themselves: from Saturday, they will play the final of the German Cup against Kaiserslautern, a second division club , to end a record season on a better note.

But in Dublin against Atalanta, they had neither the legs nor the aggression necessary to respond to the intensity proposed by the Italians. Even their unfailing resilience, which allowed them to reverse the most desperate situations at the end of matches this season, failed them on Wednesday.

Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini during the match against Leverkusen on May 22, 2024 in Dublin © Paul ELLIS / AFP

Atalanta, on the contrary, author of a superb season as well, already qualified for the fourth Champions League in its history, but which was seriously marking time after a marathon of 14 matches since April 3, has found the energy needed at the best of times.

“We need to regain physical freshness but also mental freshness,” argued his coach Gian Piero Gasperini before the final, the architect of a team without great resources, which has just, by winning the Europa League, translated into a title the fine reputation it has enjoyed in Europe.

Festival Lookman

On the pitch at the Aviva Stadium, Gasperini was heard by his Nigerian winger Ademola Lookman, author of his team’s three goals. From the 12th minute, after a corner poorly cleared by the German defense, the whirling attacker appeared in front of Exequiel Palacios, too passive, to take a cross from Davide Zappacosta at the far post (1-0).

The hero of the final Ademola Lookman, author of a hat-trick for Atalanta against Lerverkusen, May 22, 2024 in Dublin © Ben Stansall / AFP

Still in the first period, after Bayer Leverkusen lost the ball, served on the left, about thirty meters from the goal, Lookman got back on his right foot by erasing Granit Xhaka with a small bridge before curling a powerful strike close to Kovar’s post (2-0, 26th).

Then in the second half, as Leverkusen pushed, Gianluca Scamacca led a full-center counter attack without being attacked before shifting Lookman. Elusive, the Nigerian easily erased Edmond Tapsoba before finishing strongly with another cross shot, from the left this time, his third goal of the evening (75th).

His hat-trick marks a club on the rise. He sanctifies his own resurrection. Wandering from club to club in recent seasons, Lookman found, thanks to Bergamo and Gasperini, a past expert in boosting players lacking confidence, the place to express all his talent.

Completely recovered this season, he has already shone at the African Cup of Nations, largely contributing to leading Nigeria to the final. He notably scored a double in the 1/8 final against Cameroon.

Leverkusen’s Spanish coach Xabi Alonso after the defeat against Atalanta, May 22, 2024 in Dublin © Glyn KIRK / AFP

He therefore further demonstrated his talent in the final of the Europa League by scoring an additional goal and led his team to the roof of Europe. At least that was necessary to defeat the Invincibles.

With AFP


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