Ademola Lookman hits hat-trick as Atalanta tear up the script


Ademola Lookman of Atalanta
Ademola Lookman of Atalanta celebrates with the trophy following the UEFA Europa League 2023/24 final match between Atalanta BC and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Dublin Arena on May 22, 2024 in Dublin, Ireland. 

The script suggested a sort of homecoming for one-time Meath resident Xabi Alonso, but Dublin belonged to the brilliant boys from Bergamo as Atalanta thrilled their own fans and the neutrals by outwitting Bayer Leverkusen to claim the Europa League.

So impressive domestically and in Europe this season, maybe this was just one game too many for Alonso’s Leverkusen who seemed to fly the white flag of surrender just as they donned their white away kit as they were out-fought, out-thought and out-run by an Atalanta side that can only be admired as can their hat-trick hero, former Charlton player Ademola Lookman..

Given the dull familiarity of the Champions League, where the same eight teams appear to make the quarter-finals every year with one of them going on to claim success in a rather joyless procession, this final was good for the soul, an absorbing game, two sets of vocal and vibrant supporters, and a win for Atalanta – their first European success and a first trophy since an Italian Cup win back in 1963.

​The pre-match focus was mainly on Leverkusen. And that was a mistake as the team from Bergamo were just brilliant. On 12 minutes Atalanta had the lead, this time with a combination of Teun Koopmeiners and Davide Zappacosta, Alonso’s defence asleep as Lookman pounced.

If Alonso looked for a response from his players he would be disappointed as Atalanta upped the pressure instead of backing off and added a second goal, also from Lookman, on 26 minutes. Leverkusen harmed themselves with this one as a poor clearance from ’keeper Matej Kovar was met by an equally poor header from Amine Adli, Granit Xhaka stood by as the team in blue pounced and Lookman fired in his second.

The Leverkusen fans will have been wondering how their all-conquering side had been replaced by this limp ensemble, summed up by their first real threat on 35 minutes when Exequiel Palacios was played in to a good position but his effort was weak.

A passionate presence on the sideline, Alonso needed not only a stirring half-time team talk but also tactical nous with one change at the break, but with no real change in the mood, Atalanta’s substitutes Giorgio Scalvini and Mario Pasalic making their side stronger, not weaker.​​

Leverkusen offered nothing but there was more to come from Atalanta as on 76 minutes they broke for yet another attack, Gianluca Scamacca prised the German defence apart and fed Lookman who slotted home with ease, the hat-trick a remarkable feat for a player who was playing Sunday League football 10 years ago.​​​​​​

ATALANTA: Musso; Djimsiti, Hjen, Kolasinac (Scalvini 46); Zappacosta (Hateboer 83), Ederson, Koopmeiners, Ruggeri; de Ketelaere (Pasalic 56), Scamacca, Lookman.

BAYER: Kovar; Tapsoba, Tah, Stanisic (Boniface 46); Hincapie, Palacios (Andric 68), Xhaka, Frimpong (Tella 80); Grimaldo (Hlozek 68), Adli, Wirtz (Schick 80).

REF: I Kovacs (Hungary).

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