UEFA Europa League Final: Atalanta end Leverkusen’s unbeaten run 3-0 to raise the trophy

23 May, 2024

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 and claim their first trophy in 61 years.

Until they arrived in Dublin, looking to seal the second leg of an unbeaten treble, Bayer Leverkusen had played 51 games without defeat in all competitions, a timespan of 361 days stretching back to a 3-0 defeat against VfL Bochum on May 27, 2023. But that run came to a crashing end with another 3-0 loss against Gian Piero Gasperini’s underestimated Atalanta. And the harsh truth for Leverkusen is that it wasn’t even close.

Instead of focusing on Leverkusen and their defeat, this story should be about Atalanta, their manager Gian Piero Gasperini and Lookman, who fully deserved their win and claim some history of their own with a first major trophy since 1963 with Lookman becaming the first player to score a hat-trick in a European final for 49 years to secure Atalanta’s first ever continental trophy.

From start to finish, Atalanta dominated. Xabi Alonso had spoken before the game of how Gasperini’s team like to drop off and play deeper, but if he was expecting the same approach in the Aviva Stadium, it was a huge miscalculation as Atalanta pressed incessantly in the final third of the pitch and forced Leverkusen into mistake after mistake.

Atalantas Ademola Lookman raising the UEFA Europa League 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.

“To win it with Atalanta is perhaps one of the football fairy tales 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. Xabi Alonso and Leverkusen will have known that their run would end eventually, but they will be disappointed that it comes at this juncture.

Gasperini has long been one of the best managers in Europe, and stuck by Atalanta for 8 years despite plenty of offers to go elsewhere and has finally been rewarded with silverware.

Dark
Light

Latest News