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Atalanta thrashes Bayer Leverkusen thanks to Ademola Lookman’s hat-trick

The Europa League presented us with an unprecedented final tonight at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. A clash between Atalanta, playing in their first European final, and the unbeaten Bayer Leverkusen. Xabi Alonso’s men even started with a slight advantage according to bookmakers and dreamed of winning their second C3 in history after triumphing in 1988 (3-3, 3-2 on penalties against Espanyol). Not to mention the desire to extend their incredible unbeaten run (51 matches before tonight) and the possibility of achieving a historic treble (Bayer will also play in the German Cup final). But tonight, Atalanta was fiercely determined to be the thorn in the side of Granit Xhaka’s partners. Was it due to the pressure associated with the stakes? Whatever the reason, Bayer completely missed their first half, devoured by their Italian rivals. Faced with Dea’s intense pressing, Alonso’s men made many technical errors, which naturally led to numerous turnovers.

Sharper, more aggressive in duels, Gian Piero Gasperini’s men constantly suffocated their opponents. And it was only logical that they eventually breached the German defense quickly. From a corner cleared by Hincapie on the right, Koopmeiners fought to keep the ball in play before setting up Zappacosta in the gap. The Italian full-back then delivered a cross that crossed the box, before Ademola Lookman emerged at the far post, beating a sleeping Palacios (1-0, 12th minute). A quarter of an hour later, the same scenario unfolded. On a loss of possession by Adli, Lookman went on to deceive Xhaka before ruthlessly striking Kovar with a powerful curled shot (2-0, 26th minute). The Nigerian forward thus became the first African to score a brace in the final of a major UEFA tournament. The Italian pressing was so aggressive that the Bayer players almost always received the ball facing away from the game. It was difficult to develop play under such conditions. Completely overwhelmed, the Germans could have even conceded a third goal just before halftime if Kovar hadn’t dived to save a left-footed shot from De Ketelaere (43rd minute).

READ MORE: Atalanta vs Bayer Leverkusen: Probable Lineups

Lookman’s perfect match

At halftime, Xabi Alonso chose to act by bringing on Boniface instead of Stanisic. Unsurprisingly, Atalanta’s pressing became less intense, and Bayer finally managed to approach the Italian penalty area more often. However, in terms of goal-scoring opportunities, there was nothing to report. The new Bundesliga leaders seemed to be waiting for a moment of genius from their star Florian Wirtz. A spark of brilliance that never arrived. The end of the match inevitably resembled an attack-defense game, with Bayer having sterile possession and Dea looking for counterattacks.

And it was on one of these counters that the fate of the final was sealed. Played through by Scamacca on the left side, the unstoppable Lookman got rid of Tapsoba with a step-over before ruthlessly striking Kovar with a left-footed shot that nestled into the opposite top corner (3-0, 75th minute). A perfect match for the Nigerian who delivered Atalanta’s first European trophy in history. 3-0, a splendid advertisement also for the experienced Gasperini, whose tactical choices put an end to the losing finalist’s exceptional unbeaten run. Suffocated throughout the match, Bayer Leverkusen’s players lost their first game of the season at the worst possible moment.

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    Video: Ademola Lookman nets a hat-trick with a left-foot missile

    Atalanta-Leverkusen (3-0): Player Ratings