Home AFRICAN STORY Ademola Lookman Made History As The First Player To Score A Hat-trick In European Final In 49 Years

Ademola Lookman Made History As The First Player To Score A Hat-trick In European Final In 49 Years

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Ademola Lookman celebrates with the trophy after winning the Europa League Hat-trick

Nigerian forward Ademola Lookman became the first player to score a hat-trick in a UEFA Europa League final as Atalanta stunned Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 on Wednesday, ending the Bundesliga champions’ 51-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

This triumph marks Atalanta’s first-ever continental trophy and second major trophy in 116-year history.

Lookman, a 26-year-old forward, delivered an unforgettable performance in Dublin, Ireland, etching his name into Atalanta’s record books and becoming a club hero. His career, which began in south-east London with Charlton Athletic, has taken him through stints at Everton, RB Leipzig, Fulham, Leicester City, and now Atalanta.

Even before this remarkable achievement, Lookman had already become a fan favorite in Bergamo, northern Italy. “I feel the support from the fans from the first minute I was in Bergamo,” Lookman told the BBC. “The city of Bergamo gives me a sense of calmness. It’s very calm, relaxed.”

The 26-year-old forward etched his name into the Atalanta record books with a stunning hat-trick, cementing his place as a club hero. His performance in Dublin, Ireland marked the pinnacle of a career that began in southeast London with Charlton Athletic and saw stints at Everton, RB Leipzig, Fulham, Leicester City, and finally Atalanta.

Before Wednesday’s heroics, Lookman had already won the hearts of Atalanta fans, finding a new home in Bergamo, northern Italy. “I feel the support from the fans from the first minute I was in Bergamo,” Lookman said, per the BBC. “The city of Bergamo gives me a sense of calmness. It’s a very calm, relaxed city and that has helped me a lot with my living style. I’m focused on the important things.”

Lookman’s goal-scoring prowess has been pivotal for Atalanta, with 15 goals in each of his first two seasons since joining in 2022, marking the most prolific stretch of his career. Describing the final, where he scored his hat-trick with his only three shots at goal, Lookman said, “one of the best nights of my life.”

“Amazing performance from the team. We did it. We did it. We did it!” Lookman told TNT Sports after the game. This triumph was a welcome relief for Lookman after recent near-misses in the Coppa Italia final and the Africa Cup of Nations final with Nigeria.

Lookman’s remarkable rise at Atalanta has left even his manager, Gian Piero Gasperini, in awe. “We had a senior manager at Atalanta who had worked at Leicester, who saw the opportunity to bring him in and thought he was a possible useful player,” the 66-year-old Gasperini told the BBC. “Nobody could ever imagine he’d make this much progress. He wasn’t overly prolific in England. I changed his position to a more attacking role. Tonight he achieved something which will remain in the annals of football history – a stunning hat-trick.”

The focus before the final was largely on Bayer Leverkusen’s incredible season and their 51-game unbeaten run. The team recently won the Bundesliga as the first in history to do so without losing a league game. However, Lookman’s third goal, 15 minutes from time, dashed any hopes of a comeback from Xabi Alonso’s men.

“We were not planning to have a bad day today, but it was not meant to be,” Alonso told TNT Sports. “We couldn’t cope with many difficult situations because Atalanta demand so much from you. The unbeaten run has come to an end, but congratulations to Atalanta. They deserved it. Once they scored the first goal, that gave them a lot of energy. It was not about tactics; today individually they were better and as a team as well.”

Despite this setback, Leverkusen still has a chance to end their remarkable campaign on a high note as they face second division Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final. “We’ll learn from that,” Alonso said. “It hurts that the defeat comes on a big day but we have another final on Saturday and we will try and learn from today.”

Lookman, who was born in London, represented England at youth levels and was part of the squad that won the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup. The 26-year-old switched his allegiance to Nigeria and made his debut for the Super Eagles in 2022.

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