Atalanta flip script to end Leverkusen's unbeaten run

atalanta flip script to end leverkusen's unbeaten run

Xabi Alonso admitted his side were second best in the Europa League final

Before his side set out to try and make even more history, Xabi Alonso compared football to "a movie." But the final of the Europa League proved a scene he’d have preferred to leave on the cutting room floor, as Ademola Lookman’s hat-trick ensured he took top billing and Italian side Atalanta walked the red carpet in Dublin, ending Bayer Leverkusen's unbeaten season in the process.

"It's not about the unbeaten run, that didn't matter, it's about this game," said Leverkusen's midfielder Granit Xhaka. "We lost a game unfortunately, that's football. We knew it'd be a tough game, compliments to Atalanta."

Lookman, who had a spell in the Bundesliga with RB Leipzig, opened the scoring after 12 minutes before further punishing an uncharacteristically sloppy Leverkusen with two excellent strikes in the 26th and 75th minutes.

No Leverkusen late show, as Lookman shines

The Nigerian international, born and raised in London, has bounced around clubs without ever quite fulfilling his potential. He is representative of a team made up of smart transfers, homegrown players and those who have been guided back on to the right path by coach Gian Pierro Gasperini.

"One of the best nights of my life," Lookman told TNT Sports immediately after the game. "Amazing performance from the team. We did it. I don't have many words to say, but fantastic… We have to celebrate, we made history tonight."

Given the nature of Leverkusen's season — they have scored 18 stoppage time goals and 33 goals after the 80th minute — even the third of Lookman’s goals might not have felt like the clincher on any other night. But even a belief forged in one of football’s greatest seasons wilted in the force of a ferocious, focused and emphatic display from the Italian side.

"It is extremely bitter," Leverkusen midfielder Robert Andrich told German broadcaster RTL. "Atalanta did what they always do, press all over the pitch, and they won the decisive duels."

"We have to be honest: it was deserved," the German international continued. "It wasn't enough today. I think we had phases in the game where we were better, but we didn't create any real scoring opportunities. If you concede three goals and don't score any, you deserve to lose."

Alonso suffers first big setback

As Alonso applauded the travelling fans, who kept singing, his players ambled round the Dublin pitch, having almost forgotten the sensation of defeat.

“We were not planning to have a bad day today, but for sure we had one," Alonso told TNT. "It was not meant to be. It hurts because we wanted to lift the trophy but you can't have everything."

The Leverkusen coach has enjoyed a meteoric rise since taking charge of the Bundesliga outfit in his first senior job in 2022. Questions will be asked of his decision to leave Lookman’s Nigerian teammate Victor Boniface on the bench but to reach this point without defeat, and to secure a first Bundesliga title, is an enormous over-achievement.

Domestic double still on

Alonso's decision to stay put, and spurn Bayern Munich and Liverpool, means he will take his side to the Champions League next term. As gracious and eloquent as ever, the 42-year-old explained why he was comfortable with that decision.

"We have a very good connection,” he said. "[There are] many players I went to look for and they came to the project, so it was too early [to go]. I'm happy to be here and I will learn from today. It's an experience that means we will keep improving."

As much as it stings, this loss will certainly not define Alonso’s side. And with the German Cup final to come, against second division Kaiserslautern on Saturday in Berlin, they could, and probably should, end a memorable campaign on a high.

"At the moment, of course, the disappointment is much greater than the anticipation of Berlin," added Andrich.

After 51 games and 361 days, stretching back to a 3-0 defeat against VfL Bochum on the final day of last season, Leverkusen's incredible run came to an end.

It didn't turn out to be an invincible season for Leverkusen, but then, unlike Hollywood movies, football doesn't always follow the script.

Edited by: John Silk

Author: Matt Pearson

OTHER NEWS

16 minutes ago

Another Dealer Is Selling a Suzuki Jimny With a ‘Legal’ Oklahoma Title

16 minutes ago

Weed Recall Map Shows Urgent Warning for Dozens of Stores

16 minutes ago

Over-the-counter supplement found to improve walking for peripheral artery disease patients

16 minutes ago

Elon Musk selects Memphis for ‘world’s largest’ supercomputer site

16 minutes ago

Panthers 2024 training camp reporting dates announced

16 minutes ago

Labour: There'd be billions for public services with Labour

16 minutes ago

The Smartest TSX ETF to Buy With $1,000 Right Now

16 minutes ago

MK Party tells IEC ‘clear evidence’ shows the election results were not free and fair

16 minutes ago

The Ontario Pharmacist Association is urging policy change when it comes to schedule 2 vaccines for seniors

16 minutes ago

Costa Coffee confirms huge change to stores as it reopens site after refurbishment

16 minutes ago

Sir Ian McKellen’s West End play cancelled until Thursday after fall

16 minutes ago

Woman mortified after receiving message from school mum about her daughter - in error

16 minutes ago

Ben Earl named vice-captain as England go full strength for Japan trip

16 minutes ago

Nvidia just passed Microsoft and is now the most valuable company in the world

16 minutes ago

Rassie Erasmus: ‘Vital’ box the Springboks must tick to claim World Cup three-peat

16 minutes ago

Phil Foden makes Jude Bellingham admission after failing to shine in England win

16 minutes ago

RFK Jr. is right — paper ballots will restore faith in our elections

16 minutes ago

It’s vile that girls are followed by men on social media — but why do parents let them be influencers?

21 minutes ago

Let’s talk about it: Dad jokes

21 minutes ago

Club Q shooter pleads guilty to 50 federal hate crimes

21 minutes ago

Suspect arrested in apparent random stabbing outside CNBC headquarters

22 minutes ago

Congressional Budget Office raises this year’s federal budget deficit projection by $400 billion

22 minutes ago

Ecuador stops waiving visas for Chinese nationals because of an increase in irregular migration

22 minutes ago

Ex NFL coach Bill Belichick, 72, reportedly dating former cheerleader Jordon Hudson, 24

22 minutes ago

Austin Butler says he was too nervous to get high with Snoop Dog while meeting Robert De Niro

22 minutes ago

Patience key as attacking Croatia seek first Euro 2024 points

22 minutes ago

Nintendo surprises fans by announcing new 'Zelda' game

22 minutes ago

Battling Georgia win hearts but no points in Euro debut

22 minutes ago

2024 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: New England Patriots player outlooks, schedule, depth chart and more to know

22 minutes ago

2024 Travelers Championship fantasy golf rankings, picks, strategy: Back Brian Harman, avoid Collin Morikawa

22 minutes ago

Beiersdorf: gaining share in shrinking China luxury skin care market

22 minutes ago

Predicting the winner of the Raiders quarterback competition

22 minutes ago

Caregivers' perceived age affects wellbeing of dementia patients

22 minutes ago

He's like Stones: Spurs hold talks to sign "monster" Romero replacement

22 minutes ago

Royal Ascot trainers cut social media engagement over 'appalling' abuse

22 minutes ago

Ian Rapoport: 49ers do want Brandon Aiyuk, contract talks not dead

22 minutes ago

Premier League 2024/25 fixtures in full as 20 top-flight clubs discover schedules

22 minutes ago

Video: Illegal immigrant 'rapist' is pictured tied to lamp post and beaten up 'after sexually assaulting girl aged 13 in NYC park'

22 minutes ago

Video: Shannen Doherty, 53, thinks her father's frequent illnesses made her fear being abandoned and in a way led to her three divorces

25 minutes ago

Deaths, drownings and destruction as heavy rains move through Central America. 3 killed in Guatemala