Ademola Lookman scored a stunning hat-trick in Dublin as Atalanta thumped Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 to win the 2023/34 UEFA Europa League, the club’s first trophy since the Serie B title in 2011 and their first major honour since the Coppa Italia in 1963.

La Dea came into Wednesday night’s final at the Aviva Stadium, or Dublin Arena as per UEFA due to sponsorship, as the underdogs given they were up against a team that had strolled to the Bundesliga title and hadn’t lost a game in all competitions this season.

It is the first European trophy in Atalanta‘s history and it means there is something more tangible to crown Gian Piero Gasperini‘s time at the helm. It was also a night that Lookman will never forget, something he will no doubt treasure considering he was on the losing side of the Africa Cup of Nations final earlier this season with Nigeria.

Lookman stars as Atalanta stun Bayer Leverkusen

Atalanta’s Ademola Lookman celebrates. [@Atalanta_BC]

It was far from surprising to see both sides start the game with a lot of intensity, but it also led to a lot of misplaced passes. There was a good opening for Charles De Ketelaere which was wasted, whilst a cross from Matteo Ruggeri almost found Gianluca Scamacca in the six-yard box early doors.

That slight sight of goal settled Atalanta down and the passing became crisper. Davide Zappacosta was played into the box in the 12th minute and his smart pull-back evaded everyone until Lookman showed great presence of mind to beat a napping Ezequiel Palacios to the ball at the back post and side-foot it into the roof of the net.

There were clear echoes early on of Atalanta‘s performance at Anfield earlier in the tournament where they beat Liverpool 3-0, with the likes of Ederson, Ruggeri, Zappacosta and Teun Koopmeiners pressing high when the time was right.

Whilst there was a hint that Leverkusen were getting back into the game, the same pattern returned for Atalanta‘s second goal. A loose header from Florian Wirtz allowed Lookman to pick the ball up in midfield and the Nigerian danced past Granit Xhaka and curled it into the bottom corner.

There was a constant feeling that Leverkusen could burst into their brilliant best, but Xabi Alonso‘s side were certainly keeping their fans waiting. Considering they have made late goals and comebacks their trademark this season, there was reason for the fans in Dublin to live in hope.

Leverkusen fail to ignite as Lookman continues to shine

Gian Piero Gasperini was forced into a change at half-time as the experience of Sead Kolasinac was withdrawn with Giorgio Scalvini coming on in his place.

Scalvini is certainly a talented defender and his addition to the defence did not unsettle Atalanta at all. Whilst Leverkusen were enjoying more of the ball in the second half, there was a feeling that La Dea were waiting for the German champions to begin the onslaught.

As the game ticked into the 70th minute, Atalanta started to foul more frequently and were sharing the yellow cards around. With Robert Andrich on for Leverkusen, Xhaka had more license to get forward which was something different for the Nerazzurri to deal with.

Gasperini Atalanta Alonso Leverkusen Europa League
Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini and Bayer Leverkusen’s Xabi Alonso. [@bayer04fussball]

As the Leverkusen bodies started to come forward, there was more space going the other way and Lookman completed a stunning hat-trick with 15 minutes left to play. He received the ball in the box and faced up to Edmond Tapsoba. All it took was a step-over to wrong-foot the Burkinabe defender and he then fired a ruthless shot into the top corner before staring around the ground in apparent disbelief at what he had produced.

This victory for Atalanta was not just a case of Leverkusen not showing up. The likes of Ederson, Koopmeiners, Berat Djimsiti and Isak Hien did a heroic job at limiting wonderful attackers. Wirtz, the Bundesliga player of the season, did not get a sniff.

The party for Gasperini and his players will go long into the night, with Dublin being covered in black and blue.