Nigeria's Lookman is the Hero as Atalanta Stuns Leverkusen to Win Europa League - Latest Global News

Nigeria’s Lookman is the Hero as Atalanta Stuns Leverkusen to Win Europa League

Lookman’s stunning hat-trick gives Atalanta their first trophy in 117 years and ends Neverlusen’s unbeaten run.

Ademola Lookman scored a stunning hat-trick as Atalanta beat Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in the Europa League final to win only the second major trophy in its 117-year history and end the German champions’ remarkable winning 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, scored twice in the first 26 minutes before scoring 15 minutes on Wednesday night sealed victory before the end.

The victory ended Gasperini’s own two-decade quest for major titles as his side completely trumped Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen – or ‘Neverlusen’ as they were known – after an incredible 51 games unbeaten.

But just like in the two previous rounds against Premier League heavyweights Liverpool and three-time finalists Olympique Marseille, Atalanta gave their opponents no chance and crowned their first European Cup final with a magnificent victory.

“We had to attack. Just defending was not enough. We know these teams are great in attack. Everyone was exceptional,” Gasperini told Sky Sports Italia, referring to the teams his side beat to become the first Italian winners of the competition since Parma 25 years ago.

“The way we did it was the most important thing. We deserved it without a doubt against such a strong team. Winning the Europa League is an extraordinary achievement.”

Leverkusen started the game very uncertainly and, due to an unusually sloppy game, had the first chance of the game for Gianluca Scamacca, who was unable to head a beautiful cross from Matteo Ruggeri well enough to score.

It was an early warning shot and the determined Italians struck within minutes as Davide Zappacosta left far too much space on the right before Lookman beat a flat-footed Exequiel Palacios to the cutback to score the opening goal.

Lookman was mobbed by his teammates and substitutes, who found themselves in dreamland 14 minutes later.

Another mistake from Leverkusen gave possession to the Nigerian striker, who skipped past a defender and curled a beautiful right-footed shot from just outside the box into the bottom right corner.

Ademola Lookman surprised favourites Bayer Leverkusen with his three goals in the final [Molly Darlington/Reuters]

“One of the best nights of my life”

The astonished Germans briefly showed how quickly they could go on the offensive, but little came of it. Charles De Ketelaere came closest to attacking, while Atalanta showed neither the slightest nervousness, as on his debut, in the closing stages nor the impact of the absence of injured captain Marten de Roon.

Leverkusen swapped defender Josip Stanisic for top scorer Victor Boniface at half-time, but there was little change as both groups of traveling fans continued to provide the noise in the Aviva Stadium that has only been seen in some of Irish rugby teams’ famous or memorable victories international football evenings have been achieved for years.

Leverkusen had only failed to score once in a run of 42 wins in all competitions and 17 goals in or after the 90th minute, but there was no such comeback on Wednesday against the resolute Atalanta defense.

“It’s normal not to be defeated in the 52nd game. It usually happens much earlier in the season. “It was really extraordinary what we achieved and we have to be really proud,” Alonso said at a press conference.

“We definitely lacked a lot of things. It’s very demanding to play against Atalanta, a lot of double situations, very physical… Things like that happen, that’s football, today was not our day. They were better.”

Lookman, who completed his hat-trick with another stunning shot into the top corner, this time with his left foot, became the sixth player to score three goals in a major European final and the first since Jupp Heynckes for Borussia Mönchengladbach in the UEFA Cup 1975.

He was thrown into the air by his teammates as the final whistle blew and the Bergamo club ended a 61-year wait since their 1963 Italian Cup triumph.

“This is one of the best nights of my life,” Lookman, who held the match ball in his hands as he accepted his winner’s medal, told TNT Sports.

“It was an incredible performance by the team. We did it… We made history tonight.”

Lookman Atalanta
Ademola Lookman celebrates winning the Europa League with the trophy [Hannah Mckay/Reuters]

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