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Atalanta 3-0 Leverkusen: Lookman Hat-trick Fires Atalanta to Europa League

by: EdwardB


In a thrilling finale to the Europa League, Atalanta emerged victorious with a resounding 3-0 victory over Leverkusen. The night belonged to Ademola Lookman, whose hat-trick not only secured the trophy for the Italian side but also brought an end to Leverkusen’s impressive 51-game unbeaten streak. This marked Atalanta’s first major trophy in 61 years, a testament to the tactical brilliance of their veteran coach, Gian Piero Gasperini.

Gasperini’s Tactical Masterclass Delivers Atalanta’s Moment of Glory

For Gian Piero Gasperini, the victory marked a career-defining moment. At 66 years old, the veteran coach finally lifted his first major trophy, adding a tangible accomplishment to a career filled with impressive performances often overshadowed by more prominent names. This victory was no fluke; Atalanta had consistently showcased their strength throughout the tournament, notably with a commanding 3-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield and a similarly dominant performance against Marseille in the semi-final.

Gasperini emphasized the almost magical nature of Atalanta’s triumph when reflecting on the victory. He stated, “Achieving victory with Atalanta is a rare footballing fairytale.” He stressed the importance of meritocracy and the potential for innovative ideas to prevail over financial advantages. Gasperini also honored the city of Bergamo, remembering the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and dedicating the win to its resilient inhabitants. We may not be able to eliminate all the pain, but we have managed to bring happiness to the residents of Bergamo, he remarked.

Gian Piero Gasperini

Leverkusen’s Unstoppable Run Comes to an End

While acknowledging Atalanta’s triumph, it is essential to recognize Xabi Alonso’s remarkable achievements with Bayer Leverkusen. Guiding a team other than Bayern Munich to the Bundesliga title is a feat in itself, especially in the dominant fashion displayed by Leverkusen this season. However, on this particular night, Alonso’s tactical prowess was overshadowed by Gasperini’s experience.

Leverkusen, recognized for their relentless pressing and fast transitions, appeared unsettled by Atalanta’s well-structured defense and the energetic midfield combination of Éderson and Teun Koopmeiners. Alonso, displaying grace in defeat, acknowledged the deficiencies of his team. We were expecting individual battles all over the field but we failed to assert ourselves, he admitted. It hurts, but it’s also deserved. Their usual late surges and comebacks were noticeably missing on this occasion, highlighting the success of Atalanta’s strategy.

A Night of Contrasting Emotions for Fans

The Europa League final held a special significance, offering a platform for two teams who had enjoyed stellar seasons to showcase their vibrant and attacking brand of football on a grand European stage. The atmosphere was palpable, buzzing with the raw excitement of fans experiencing a rare taste of European glory, a stark contrast to the almost routine familiarity of supporters from Europe’s more established giants.

Lookman’s Hat-trick Clinches a Memorable Victory

From the outset, Atalanta dictated the tempo, capitalizing on Leverkusen’s surprisingly nervy start. The German side, usually so comfortable in possession, were wasteful in the early exchanges, allowing Atalanta to find their rhythm and assert their dominance.

Lookman’s opening goal epitomized Leverkusen’s uncharacteristic lapse in concentration. A seemingly harmless cross from Davide Zappacosta turned into a golden opportunity as Exequiel Palacios, guilty of ball-watching, allowed Lookman to ghost in unmarked. The striker made no mistake, slotting the ball past a helpless Lukas Hradecky.

Gasperini expressed his delight at Lookman’s impressive improvement, stating that no one had expected him to make such significant strides. Lookman’s goal-scoring record in England was not particularly impressive, but after adjusting his position to a more attacking role, he has excelled this year. Gasperini highlighted that Lookman accomplished something tonight that will be remembered in the history of football.

Lookman himself credited the “calmness” of Bergamo and the “intensity” of Gasperini’s training for his impressive form. He revealed how the manager had “simplified” the game for him, allowing him to “look at my game in a different light and take it to a new level”.

Ademola Lookman

The second goal was a testament to Lookman’s individual brilliance. He pounced on a loose ball, cut inside with purpose, leaving Granit Xhaka grasping at thin air with a perfectly executed nutmeg, and then curled an unstoppable shot into the far corner.

Despite trailing by two goals, Leverkusen, known for their never-say-die attitude, refused to panic. They had, after all, overturned two-goal deficits on multiple occasions throughout their Europa League campaign. Victor Boniface, Leverkusen’s impact substitute, was introduced at half-time hoping to replicate the heroics of Didi Hamann, who turned the tide for Liverpool in the famous 2005 Champions League final.

However, on this occasion, the comeback eluded them. Leverkusen enjoyed plenty of possession in the second half but struggled to penetrate a well-drilled Atalanta defense. Lookman extinguished their hopes in emphatic fashion by completing his hat-trick with 15 minutes remaining.

Gianluca Scamacca, leading a swift counter-attack, played a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Lookman. The winger, showcasing his blistering pace, latched onto the ball, cut onto his left foot, and unleashed a thunderous strike that found the top corner, leaving Hradecky with no chance.

A Deserving Triumph for La Dea

Atalanta’s victory was a fitting reward for their commitment to attacking football and tactical discipline. Led by the experienced Gasperini, they neutralized Leverkusen’s strengths and ruthlessly exploited their weaknesses. Lookman’s hat-trick will forever mark a special night for Atalanta and the city of Bergamo.

For Leverkusen, the defeat, while disappointing, should not overshadow their exceptional season. Guided by Xabi Alonso, they have established themselves as a formidable force, and with a talented young squad, their future looks bright.

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