Naija Boy Lookman, the Hat-Trick Hero as Atalanta Ends Alonso’s and Leverkusen’s Unbeaten Run to Clinch 2024 Europa League Trophy

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Nigeria’s Super Eagles forward, Ademola Lookman etched his name into the annals of European football history on a night filled with drama and excitement, as he delivered a masterclass performance, scoring a sensational hat-trick to lead Atalanta to a stunning 3-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League final, thus ending the German side’s remarkable 51-game unbeaten streak.

Lookman’s brilliance was evident from the start, with his first goal coming just 12 minutes into the game. A well-timed side-foot finish at the back post set the tone for what would become a night to remember. Just 14 minutes later, Lookman doubled the advantage with a breathtaking curling shot from 20 yards, leaving Leverkusen’s defense in disarray.

The crowning moment came in the second half when Lookman completed his hat-trick with a powerful left-footed strike, making him the first-ever African player to score a hat-trick in a European final. This feat places him alongside Jupp Heynckes, who last achieved a hat-trick in a Europa League/UEFA Cup final in 1975.

Leverkusen, led by Xabi Alonso, had enjoyed an extraordinary season, yet they seemed unprepared for Atalanta’s high-pressure tactics. The German side struggled to maintain possession and succumbed to early mistakes, setting the stage for Atalanta’s dominance. Granit Xhaka’s loss of possession led to Matteo Ruggeri’s headed opportunity for Gianluca Scamacca, a clear warning that went unheeded by Leverkusen.

Atalanta’s second goal highlighted Leverkusen’s inability to cope with the relentless pressure. Lookman capitalized on a loose ball, skillfully navigating through Xhaka’s legs before finding the net with an unstoppable shot. Despite a golden opportunity for Alex Grimaldo to halve the deficit, Leverkusen failed to convert, and Atalanta’s defense held firm.

Known for their late-game heroics, Leverkusen had scored crucial goals in the 90th minute or injury time throughout the season. However, this time, they had no answer to Lookman’s relentless attack. In a moment of brilliance, Scamacca set up Lookman on the left, who then outmaneuvered the defenders with a stepover before unleashing a vicious shot into the top corner.

The victory not only marked a historic night for Lookman but also for Atalanta’s 66-year-old manager Gian Piero Gasperini, who celebrated his first-ever trophy after more than two decades in coaching. The emotional scenes on the pitch and the stands highlighted the significance of this triumph for the Italian side.

Fans took to social media platform X to hail Lookman’s historic achievement, with messages of admiration and pride flooding in from around the globe.

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