Atalanta 3-0 Bayer Leverkusen: Alonso's unbeaten run ends as Lookman hat-trick settles Europa League final

By Sports Desk May 22, 2024

Ademola Lookman produced a performance for the ages as his hat-trick ended Bayer Leverkusen's 51-game unbeaten streak and saw Atalanta claim the Europa League with a 3-0 win in Dublin.

Xabi Alonso's Bundesliga title champions were eyeing an unlikely treble this season, but those plans came to a crashing halt as Atalanta secured their first-ever European silverware.

Lookman did the early damage with his first-half brace, the second of which was an eye-catching solo strike, as Gian Piero Gasperini's Serie A side seized unexpected control on Wednesday.

Comeback masters Leverkusen may have fancied a late fightback but Lookman's thumping 75th-minute finish completed his hat-trick and ensured Alonso's team suffered defeat for the first time this season, in what was their penultimate match of an exceptional campaign.

Leverkusen were punished for a slow start as Atalanta, making their maiden appearance in a European final, capitalised with just 12 minutes gone at the Aviva Stadium.

Exequiel Palacios was caught unaware at the back post as Davide Zappacosta slammed a low right-sided cross for Lookman to fire into the top-left corner from close range.

Lookman doubled his tally 14 minutes later, coolly flicking through the legs of Granit Xhaka before curling a right-footed finish into the bottom-right corner from the cusp of Leverkusen's area.

Alex Grimaldo should have responded shortly after but aimed a timid lob straight at the onrushing Juan Musso, who gratefully grasped the chipped effort when way out of his goal.

Charles De Ketelaere fizzed into the hands of Matej Kovar, while Granit Xhaka whipped wide before Alonso introduced striker Victor Boniface at the break.

That alteration failed to change the tide as Jeremie Frimpong blazed over the only chance before the hour-mark – and there would be no way back after Lookman scored his third with 15 minutes remaining.

Gianluca Scamacca played a simple offload out to his left, with Lookman breezing past Edmond Tapsoba before cannoning a wonderful left-footed strike beyond Kovar to seal a famous night for the team from Bergamo.

Atalanta savour legend Lookman

Lookman has etched his name into Atalanta history after helping Gasperini's side become the first Italian side to win the Europa League.

The Nigeria international is the sixth player to score a hat-trick in the final of a major UEFA competition, and the first since Jupp Heynckes' for Borussia Monchengladbach in the 1975 UEFA Cup.

Lookman's match-winning heroics will live long in the memory of Atalanta supporters, who will cherish just their second major trophy in club history – 61 years after winning the Coppa Italia.

Neverlusen comes to an end

Prior to this stunning defeat, Leverkusen were undefeated in all 12 Europa League games this season (W9 D3) and aiming to become the fourth side to win the trophy unbeaten, along with Chelsea in 2018-19, Villarreal in 2020-21 and Eintracht Frankfurt in 2021-22.

Adding in their nine-month unbeaten run, which spanned back to a first-round DFB-Pokal thrashing of Teutonia Ottensen in mid-August, Alonso's side appeared the favourites for this clash.

Yet form went out the window as Atalanta – who also eliminated Liverpool in the quarter-finals – inflicted Leverkusen's first defeat across all competitions in 361 days, and Alonso must now rally his troops for the DFB-Pokal final on Saturday.

Related items

  • Sabitzer focused on last-16 qualification after Champions League heartache Sabitzer focused on last-16 qualification after Champions League heartache

    Marcel Sabitzer insisted he will put his Champions League final defeat in the past as he prepares to help Austria reach the last-16 of Euro 2024. 

    The Borussia Dortmund midfielder played the full duration of their 2-0 defeat to Real Madrid at Wembley earlier this month. 

    Los Blancos secured their 15th success in the competition thanks to goals late in the game from Dani Carvajal and Vinicius Junior. 

    But Sabitzer played a starring role as Austria roared back from their defeat to France in their opening game of the competition, beating Poland 3-1 to bring it down to the final matchday. 

    Austria face the Netherlands in Berlin next Tuesday to conclude their Group D campaign, and know a win could see them finish top or second. 

    A draw or defeat could also leave Ralf Rangnick's side with a good chance of progressing as one of the four best third-placed teams. 

    "The possibilities then really open up," Sabitzer said.

    "I know that from the Champions League, especially this season. Once you're on a run in the knockout phase anything can happen.

    "The most important thing is to get through the group stage and into the round of 16 and then we'll see what happens next."

  • Brazil v Costa Rica: Endrick 'confident' of making Copa America impact Brazil v Costa Rica: Endrick 'confident' of making Copa America impact

    Endrick is confident he can help Brazil claim a 10th Copa America title as he prepares for his first international tournament with the Selecao Canarinho. 

    Brazil kickstart their campaign at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Monday against Costa Rica. 

    Dorival Junior's side will also face Paraguay and Colombia in Group E, hopeful of going one better this time around having lost to Argentina in the 2021 final. 

    The 17-year-old, who officially joins Real Madrid next month, has scored three goals in his last four games for Brazil but knows he will have to remain patient for his opportunity at the Copa America. 

    "Only God knows [when I will start]," Endrick said. I am very grateful to have Abel [Ferreira] as a coach, he knew when to play me.

    "Everything is up to God and Dorival Junior, the professor. He is a spectacular coach. He is doing what is best for the Brazilian team.

    "I have always been very precocious in my life and since I became a professional I have played against opponents who have always teased me, insulted me, talked about my family, my girlfriend.

    "But I got used to it quickly because I was 16. I'm calm, and I hope I can help. I think it's right, in football you have to destabilise the other player.

    "It's been like that since I arrived, so I've adapted, and I'm very confident that I can help the team."

    For Costa Rica Gustavo Alfaro, he has experience at the Copa America having guided Ecuador to the quarter-finals of the previous tournament in 2021.

    The 61-year-old also took them to the following year's World Cup, where they opened with a 2-0 win against hosts Qatar before drawing 1-1 with the Netherlands, but failed to reach the knockouts after losing 2-1 to Senegal in their final group game.

    However, Alfaro faces a different proposition with Los Ticos. Costa Rica have failed to make it beyond the group stages in each of the last two appearances; they last did so in 2004, but their recent form holds reason for optimism. 

    Costa Rica have won four of their previous six international fixtures, losing only once over that stretch (3-1 to Argentina). They have also not conceded in any of their last three competitive fixtures, winning 15 of their previous 16 encounters when scoring the opening goal.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Brazil - Vinicius Junior 

    Vinicius Junior played a starring role in Real Madrid's LaLiga and Champions League successes in 2023-24, and claiming a first international honour with his nation would surely put the 23-year-old in pole position to scoop the Ballon d'Or. 

    The Los Blancos star had 35 goal involvements (24 goals and 11 assists) in 39 appearances in all competitions for the Spanish side, his second-best campaign since his move to Madrid in 2021-22 (22 goals and 20 assists). 

     

    Costa Rica - Manfred Ugalde

    Having failed to score for his new side, Spartak Moscow, after his move from FC Twente in January, Ugalde rediscovered his goal-scoring touch at the opportune moment heading into the tournament. 

    The 22-year-old striker grabbed a goal and three assists in Costa Rica's CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers against Grenada and Saint Kitts and Nevis, and will be hoping to continue that form in Inglewood against Brazil. 

    MATCH PREDICTION: BRAZIL WIN

    Brazil and Costa Rica have faced each other twice in the Copa America, with both victories for the Brazilian team in 1997 (5-0) at the Estadio Ramon Tahuichi Aguilera and in 2004 (4-1) with Adriano scoring a hat-trick for Carlos Alberto Parreira's side. 

    The Selecao Canarinho have won 10 of their 11 meetings against their opponents, with their last defeat coming in the Panamerican Championship in March 1960 (3-0), with Brazil backed to continue their nine-game unbeaten run. 

    Costa Rica will look to continue their impressive record against CONMEBOL teams at the Copa America, having lost one of their last four matches against them (W2 D1).

    Gustavo Alfaro's side will seek to string together victories for the first time against CONMEBOL opponents in the competition, having defeated Colombia 3-2 in the 2016 edition.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Brazil - 71%

    Costa Rica - 16.1%

    Draw - 12.9%

  • Los Angeles FC 6-2 San Jose Earthquakes: Cherundolo's side move to Western Conference summit Los Angeles FC 6-2 San Jose Earthquakes: Cherundolo's side move to Western Conference summit

    Los Angeles FC moved to the Western Conference summit with a 6-2 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.at BMO Stadium.

    Mateusz Bogusz struck twice, while Denis Bouanga, Kei Kamara, Ryan Hollingshead and Tomas Angel were also on target as LAFC returned to winning ways in MLS.

    Steve Cherundolo's side saw their eight-match winning streak end at Austin in midweek, but they took the lead through Bogusz after a quarter of an hour.

    Bouanga doubled the lead with his 13th goal of the season, while Kamara headed in a Bogusz cross before Hollingshead's deflected strike made it 4-0 before half-time.

    Rodrigues replied for bottom side San Jose in first-half stoppage time, before Benjamin Kikanovic reduced the arrears in the 57th minute.

    However, LAFC had the final word with Angel striking three minutes from time to send them top of the Western Conference - ahead of Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy by virtue of winning one more game.

    Data Debrief: Kamara passes Donovan

    Kamara's header gave him his 146th regular-season goal in MLS, moving him past Landon Donovan and into second place on the all-time list.

    The 39-year-old is now 25 goals behind Chris Wondolowski's record, while LAFC extended their franchise-record unbeaten streak to 10 matches.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.