Atalanta BC are Europa League Champions 

Bayer Leverkusen’s fairytale hunt for the undefeated treble ends in Dublin, after Atalanta’s Ademola Lookman scores his first-ever career hattrick, becoming the first player to score a hattrick in the Europa League Final. 

The Independent 

Atalanta BC has won its first-ever European trophy, defeating German champions Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in Dublin. A fantastic hat trick scored by Ademola Lookman secured Gian Piero Gasperini’s first trophy of his career.

Atalanta unleashed a relentless high press from the start, hounding the Leverkusen players whenever they had possession. This daring strategy rattled Leverkusen’s players despite the risk of leaving vast spaces behind. Atalanta also won the physical battle, tactical fouling in critical positions when Leverkusen had the open space to run onto. 

As for Xabi Alonso, his questionable starting-eleven, left their best forward Victor Boniface on the bench, leading to a frustrating night. Star playmaker Florian Wirtz was never allowed to find space to create opportunities for Leverkusen’s forwards, constantly pressed and fouled by Atalanta’s midfielders. 

Atalanta’s Europa League run was met with difficult matches. They beat Sporting Lisbon 3–2, crushed Liverpool 3-1, and destroyed Marseille 4-1 on aggregate. They were seen as underdogs in every matchup during their knockout stage run to the final and succeeded at every possible opportunity. 

As for Leverkusen, their fairytale run came to an abrupt end. 

Having not lost a match for almost a year, this was the first time this season that they looked tired, out of ideas, and stagnated. Xabi Alonso’s idea to start without a striker didn’t give Leverkusen the needed vocal point in their attack. As soon as Leverkusen began to hoof the ball forward to relieve the pressure from Atalanta, they would lose the match. 

The Guardian 

It was a tale of two teams. 

Atalanta’s discipline and scoring strategies in critical moments were the outliers of the match. They looked dangerous whenever they went forward and seemingly got into good scoring positions. Lookman was an outlet, and whenever he had the ball in a goal-scoring moment, it felt inevitable that he would get that goal. 

Gasperini has lost his last four finals as Atalanta’s coach, most recently to Juventus in the Coppa Italia earlier this month. To win convincingly against one of the best sides in Europe is a true testament to his players and the mentality shift needed to win a big European final. 

Given Gasperini has been linked to the Napoli job in the last couple of weeks, this final and the way that Atlanta has finished their season after a slow start, may convince him to stay instead of leaving. They finished in the Champions League places, won the Europa League, and made it to the Coppa Italia Final. It’s been a phenomenal season, and it may be the persuasion needed for Atalanta to keep hold of their manager. 

As disappointing as the final was for Leverkusen, Alonso’s team should hold their heads high. Perhaps they finally felt the pressure of playing on the biggest stage, seemingly outplayed and outfought. However,  they are the first side in Bundesliga history to win the title undefeated. They played some incredible football this season and still have an opportunity to win another trophy at the weekend in the DFB Pokal against FC Kaiserslautern. 

Bayer Leverkusen was flirting with relegation a year and a half ago, barely scraping by opponents. Alonso had turned a relegation candidate, to title and potential European winners in such a short time. He has done a brilliant job during his brief managerial career and will undoubtedly learn from this experience. 


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