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Lookman ends Leverkusen’s unbeaten run and gives Atalanta their first European Cup

Ademola Lookman was the hero of the night as his three goals ended Bayern Leverkusen’s fairytale unbeaten run to secure Atalanta’s first European Cup title.

Lookman became the first player to score a hat-trick in a European final for 49 years and secured Atalanta’s first ever continental trophy.

The side from Bergamo has long lived in the shadow of nearby giants AC and Inter Milan.

However, they enjoyed a golden era under Gian Piero Gasperini, reaching the Champions League four times and now have a lot to offer.

Leverkusen have made a habit of late games in their remarkable journey to winning their first ever Bundesliga title without tasting defeat.

This time, however, they failed to dig themselves out of the hole created by the slow start.

Atalanta’s more purposeful play in the opening stages was rewarded after just 12 minutes.

Davide Zappacosta got to the touchline and Lookman caught Exequiel Palacios napping to fire into the top corner at the back post.

The Nigerian has endured a sometimes nomadic career, bouncing around the lower levels of the Premier League with loan spells at Fulham and Leicester after being dropped by RB Leipzig.

But Lookman found a home in Bergamo, where he will now be a hero forever.

The 26-year-old’s second goal was fit to win any final as he teed up Granit Xhaka before curling a powerful shot into the far corner.

For the fourth time in seven Europa League knockout games, Xabi Alonso’s men found themselves 2-0 down.

Leverkusen’s flying full-backs have been at the heart of their amazing season and should have brought them back into the game either side of half-time.

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Alex Grimaldo tamely fired into the arms of Juan Musso before Jeremie Frimpong shone from goal.

Leverkusen were also denied a lifeline when Gianluca Scamacca was lucky to escape with a yellow card for a wild challenge on Florian Wirtz.

Alonso experienced a rapid rise to become one of the hottest coaching services in Europe.

The Spaniard has rejected offers from former clubs Liverpool and Bayern Munich to stay at the BayArena next season.

However, Alonso’s decision to start without a recognized striker didn’t work out and he threw on Victor Bonifác at half-time to give his side a focal point up front.

However, the damage was already done as the German champions looked exhausted from their record-breaking run of three competitions.

Atalanta were happy to soak up Leverkusen’s pressure after the break and hit on the counter-attack.

The final blow was another wonderful finish from Lookman as he skipped past Edmond Tapsoba and this time hit the top corner of his weaker left foot.

Atalanta have lost all three 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 attempt at history as they were roared across the finish line by thousands clad in blue and black who had made the journey from northern Italy to the Irish capital.

They became the first Italian team to win the competition since Parma lifted the UEFA Cup in 1999.


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