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Lookman, this is a football fairytale!

Updated on: 24 May,2024 06:12 AM IST  |  Dublin

Striker Ademola nets hat-trick as Atalanta end Bayer Leverkusen’s 51-match unbeaten run to emerge champions of Europa Cup; boss Gian Piero Gasperini hails team for achieving glory without huge budgets

Lookman, this is a football fairytale!

Atalanta’s Ademola Lookman lifts the trophy after the UEFA Europa League final win over Bayer Leverkusen in Dublin. Pic/AFP

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Lookman, this is a football fairytale!

Ademola Lookman scored a stunning hat-trick as Atalanta ended Bayer Leverkusen’s 51-match unbeaten run to win the Europa League final 3-0 on Wednesday and claim their first trophy for 61 years. 

1st ever continental trophy

Lookman became the first player to score a hat-trick in a European final since 1975 to secure Atalanta’s first ever continental trophy. 

The side from Bergamo have long lived in the shadow of nearby giants AC and Inter Milan. However, they have enjoyed a golden era under Gian Piero Gasperini, reaching the Champions League on four occasions, and now have silverware to show for it.

Gian Piero Gasperini Gian Piero Gasperini 

“To win it with Atalanta is perhaps one of the football fairytales that rarely gives scope for meritocracy,” said Gasperini. 

“It doesn’t always come down to cold hard numbers or super leagues, but shows teams without huge budgets can achieve big things.”

Leverkusen have made a habit of late fightbacks in their remarkable run to winning a first ever Bundesliga title without tasting defeat. But this time they failed to dig themselves out of a hole created by a slow start. “It’s a shame that the time it didn’t work out for us was in a final,” said Leverkusen midfielder Granit Xhaka.

Atalanta’s more purposeful play in the opening stages was rewarded after just 12 minutes. Davide Zappacosta got to the by-line and Lookman caught Exequiel Palacios napping to fire into the top corner at the back post.

The Nigerian has at times endured a nomadic career, bouncing around the lower reaches of the Premier League on loan spells at Fulham and Leicester after being discarded by RB Leipzig. But Lookman has found a home in Bergamo, where he will now forever be a hero. 

“In the past few years I’ve been able to take my game to a new level and show that on a more consistent basis,” said Lookman. 

‘I’m pleased with progress’

“I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made but this is just the beginning. I hope for more nights like this,” added Lookman.

The 26-year-old’s second goal was fit to win any final as he nutmegged Xhaka before curling a powerful shot into the far corner. The final blow was another fabulous finish from Lookman as he skipped past Edmond Tapsoba and this time blasted into the top corner on his weaker left foot. 

Atalanta had lost all three of their previous finals under Gasperini, most recently in last week’s Coppa Italia defeat to Juventus. 

But this time they were not to be denied their shot at history as they were roared across the finishing line by the thousands clad in blue and black that had made the trip from northern Italy to the Irish capital. In doing so they became the first Italian side to win the competition since Parma lifted the UEFA Cup in 1999.

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