Europa: Ademola Lookman destroys Leverkusen treble-chasing dream with hat-trick, halts invicible record
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Europa: Ademola Lookman destroys Leverkusen treble-chasing dream with hat-trick, halts invicible record

May 22, 2024

Europa: Ademola Lookman destroys Leverkusen treble-chasing dream with hat-trick, halts invicible record

Admin By Adewale Adewale
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Bayer Leverkusen invisible record has finally been halted by Atlanta in the Europa Cup finals, thanks to incredible hat-trick by Nigerian forward, Ademola Lookman.

The Bergamaschi hadn't won a trophy for 61 years, but on a glorious night in Dublin, Gian Piero Gasperini's miracle-men stunned the footballing world by routing Leverkusen 3-0 in the final of the Europa League.

Ademola Lookman was the star of the show, scoring a stunning hat-trick, with each goal arguably even better than the one that preceded it, in what was a collective victory for Atalanta.

Gasperini subjected Xabi Alonso to a tactical masterclass, with the underdogs completely taking the game beyond the reach of their treble-chasing opponent despite dominating the game.

Atlanta showed once again why they're best pound-for-pound team in the world.

The Nigeria international wasn't just decisive in Dublin, though, he wrote his name into the history books.

When he opened the scoring by embarrassing Exequiel Palacios with a brilliant blindside run in the twelveth minute, he became just the third Nigerian to score in a major European final, after Alex Iwobi and Joe Aribo.

Lookman’s opener increased the confidence of Atalanta who pressed high with such intensity that Leverkusen had no answer.

He was a nightmare for defender Edmond Tapsoba and added a second by cutting inside and curling home a right-footed shot in the 26th minute.

With his sublime second strike, Lukman became the first African to score twice in a UEFA decider.

Then, with his thunderous third in the 75th minute, he became the first player to score a hat-trick in this fixture since Jupp Heynckes all the way back in 1975.

This wasn't really about records, though. It was about perseverance. Lookman's childhood was tough. He was playing Sunday League football when Charlton Athletic picked him up as a 16-year-old.

He never quite made the grade in the Premier League or the Bundesliga.

But he kept going. He never lost faith in himself and now he's an Atalanta icon - and a Europa League legend.

Bayer Leverkusen are not infallible - and neither is their brilliant young coach, Xabi Alonso.

He got his starting line-up all wrong against Atalanta, with his decision to start with Victor Boniface on the bench particularly puzzling.

Worse still, Alonso seemed totally taken by surprise by Gasperini's game plan.

He acknowledged beforehand that Atalanta would "cause us problems" with their "intensity" - but Leverkusen were overwhelmed, perhaps because their coach had also warned them to expect a "wait-and-see approach" from their opponents.

Whatever the truth, Alonso was given a tactical lesson at the Aviva Stadium; the one positive is that the Spaniard is likely to learn an awful lot from it.

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