Download Free FREE High-quality Joomla! Designs • Premium Joomla 3 Templates
Home / News / Lookman leads Atalanta to Europa League glory in Dublin

Lookman leads Atalanta to Europa League glory in Dublin

When the annals of Atalanta history are written, Dublin will hold a special place in the hearts of their followers after Ademola Lookman’s hat-trick saw them beat a previously unbeatable Bayer Leverkusen and clinch the Europa League to end a 61-year wait for a major trophy.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s side came to Irish shores off the back of losing the Coppa Italia final to Juventus, their fifth loss in a decider since their one and only trophy win back in 1963.

But with 26-year-old Lookman, whose career in the Premier League had never taken off during loan spells with Fulham, Everton and Leicester, playing the gladiatorial role for the Italian side, it was his cool-headed finishing which delivered a second ever major honour back to the northern city of Bergamo.

For Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen, the crushing defeat ends an unbeaten run that has already delivered an invincible league campaign and the bid for a treble, although they will have a chance to achieve domestic supremacy if they win the German Cup final against second-tier Kaiserslautern in Berlin at the weekend.

But for Atalanta, it caps a memorable journey that saw Sporting Lisbon, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and Marseille knocked out along the road to Dublin.

Specks of blue and black or black and red, depending on the wearer’s preferences, had sprouted onto caps, scarves and jackets around the city centre as the day wore on and only flourished on the roads leading to the Dublin 4 colosseum, the bulk of Leverkusen fans arriving from Shelbourne Park and their Atalanta counterparts winding their way from the RDS Simmonscourt amid a heavy Garda presence.

Blue, red and black very much in evidence around the capital

Long before interim Republic of Ireland manager John O’Shea carried in the holy grail both sides were on a quest for, the red and blue corners of the stadium certainly made themselves heard by the time action kicked off at 8pm.

Xabi Alonso opted to leave top scorer Victor Boniface, who had netted five times on the road to Dublin, on the bench amid concerns over a groin issue.

It was perhaps a wise choice as both sides set about each other at a frantic pace from the first whistle.

That resulted in loose passes in the early stages, with Granit Xhaka guilty of an errant pass inside to Atalanta dangerman Gianluca Scamacca that threatened the Leverkusen goal after Lookman ran at the Bundesliga champions’ defence and fed Matteo Ruggeri whose cross from the left towards Scamacca caused momentary panic.

And it was Lookman who broke the deadlock in the 12th minute for the Italians. The former winger was lurking in the box when Davide Zappacosta received a pass into the channel from the right flank as Atalanta laid a brief siege following a corner and the din exploded from the blue corner housing the Serie A side’s supporters.

Leverkusen were surprisingly second best at this stage but did fashion a brief opening six minutes later when Jeremie Frimpong got in down the right but Alejandro Grimaldo failed to make a telling connection with his weaker right foot from the edge the box.

Ademola Lookman scores his second with a shot beyond the outstretched Matej Kovar

But it was Atalanta and that man Lookman who would strike another blow again on 25 minutes, adding more decibels to the roars from the blue corner of the ground. The Nigeria international who had been a lively presence, ran at the Leverkusen rearguard once more and with one swift motion, curled a lovely shot beyond goalkeeper Matej Kovar, starting in place of Bayer 04 club captain Lukas Hradecky.

Leverkusen have shown a propensity to come back from rare setbacks all the way through a previously unbeaten season but ten minutes before the break, Alex Grimaldo’s tame effort into the onrushing Juan Musso after being played in behind the Atalanta defence did not bode well.

Another lofted pass almost freed up Wirtz but again Musso was alert as the Atalanta defence lived dangerously, especially with the pacey Frimpong providing an outlet.

But as the game ticked towards half-time, it was the Italians who threatened again, a sumptuous outside of the boot pass out to the right for Charles De Ketelaere.

The young Belgian struggled at AC Milan, but is one of many players revitalised by Gasperini, although not to the point of seriously troubling Kovar on this occasion with the goalkeeper getting down to make a save low down to his left.

Just before half-time, Xhaka attempted the type of long-range snapshot that he has often pulled off for clubs and country but the Swiss midfielder flashed his effort wide, typifying a frustrating half for Leverkusen.

Did Alonso’s side have a response in store?

Ademola Lookman scores his second

One immediately change was to spring Boniface in from the start of the second half with the withdrawal of defender Josip Stanisic precipitating a necessary change of emphasis as Leverkusen attacked towards the sea of red housing their own supporters.

But it was Atalanta who threatened first with a menacing low cross from Teun Koopmeiners towards the lurking De Ketelaere just about cut out by desperate Leverkusen defending.

Approaching the hour mark, the German side had a brief opening as Amine Adli flashed a cross over for Frimpong but attacking it with his weaker left foot, he ballooned his effort far above the crossbar.

It was in keeping with an unexpectedly flat display from the 2023-24 Bundesliga invincibles.

At the other end, Lookman continued to torment Leverkusen from his inside left berth, forcing Edmond Tapsoba into a yellow-card challenge.

And it was Lookman who capped the finest night of his career with a ha-trick on 75 minutes. Atalanta broke with Scamacca inching towards the box. A ball out to his left isolated Lookman one-on-one against Tapshoba before skinning him on the outside and lashing a left-footed shot into the top corner and sending the blue corner in the Dublin Arena into stratospheric levels of celebration which hit the highest decibels when the final whistle delivered salvation.

Atalanta: Musso, Djimsiti, Hien, Kolasinac (Scalvini ’45), Zappacosta (Hateboer ‘83), Ederson Silva, Koopmeiners, Ruggeri (Toloi ’90), De Ketelaere (Mario Pasalic ‘56), Lookman, Scamacca (Toure ‘83).

Bayer Leverkusen: Kovar, Tapsoba, Tah, Hincapie, Stanisic (Boniface ‘45), Palacios (Andrich ‘68), Xhaka, Grimaldo (Hlozek ‘68), Frimpong (Tella ‘80), Wirtz (Schick ‘80), Adli.

Referee: Istvan Kovacs (Romania)

Atalanta: Musso, Djimsiti, Hien, Kolasinac, Zappacosta, Ederson Silva, Koopmeiners, Ruggeri, De Ketelaere, Lookman, Scamacca. Subs: Toloi, Holm, Pasalic, Toure, de Roon, Bakker, Adopo, Carnesecchi, Rossi, Hateboer, Scalvini, Miranchuk.

Bayer Leverkusen: Kovar, Tapsoba, Tah, Hincapie, Stanisic, Palacios, Xhaka, Grimaldo, Frimpong, Wirtz, Adli. Subs: Hradecky, Kossounou, Hofmann, Andrich, Iglesias, Arthur, Schick, Tella, Boniface, Hlozek, Puerta, Lomb.

Referee: Istvan Kovacs (Romania)

Listen to the RTÉ Soccer podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Source link

Check Also

Three arrests over demonstrations at Taoiseach’s home

Three men have been arrested as part of an investigation into demonstrations at the Taoiseach’s …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *