Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten season ended in Europa League final

Jurgen Klinsmann joins “ESPN FC” to break down how Atalanta was able to end Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten run and win the Europa League final. (1:35)

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Ademola Lookman wrecked Bayer Leverkusen’s pursuit of a historic unbeaten treble by scoring a stunning hat trick to seal Europa League glory for Atalanta with a 3-0 win in Dublin.

Former Everton and RB Leipzig forward Lookman, 26, produced the performance of his career as Gian Piero Gasperini’s team upset the odds to win its first European trophy and consign Leverkusen to defeat for the first time in any competition this season.

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Leverkusen’s unbeaten run had lasted 51 games and 361 days, stretching back to a 3-0 defeat against VfL Bochum in May 2023.

“It wasn’t lost in terms of attitude, it was a football thing,” Leverkusen manager Xabi Alonso said. “It happens, it’s football, today wasn’t meant to be. They were better.”

Leverkusen were seeking only their second European trophy, and their first since the 1988 UEFA Cup — the forerunner of the Europa League.

“It’s exceptional what we have done. Today is painful, but it is deserved as well,” Alonso said.

“These defeats in a final, you don’t forget them. We had a big chance, we put everything on today, but it didn’t go as planned, we weren’t on our best level and we will learn from today.

“How we deal with the pain will be a challenge for us.”

Bayer Leverkusen’s hopes of a historic unbeaten season in all competitions were dashed by Atalanta. Image Photo Agency/Getty Images

Leverkusen had sealed their first-ever German title this season by winning 28, drawing 6 and losing none of their 34 league games.

They had been heavily tipped to become the first team in European football history to win three major trophies without defeat by adding the Europa League and DFB Pokal (German Cup) to their Bundesliga crown.

But Italian Serie A side Atalanta, who eliminated Liverpool at the quarterfinal stage before beating Marseille in the semifinals, dominated the game from start, and Lookman gave them a 2-0 half-time lead before sealing a memorable victory with an outstanding individual goal on 75 minutes.

Leverkusen’s recent run of salvaging draws from losing positions had kept this game alive until Lookman’s third goal ruled out any prospect of a late fightback.

Having failed to complete an unbeaten treble, Leverkusen can still create history by sealing an unbeaten double if they defeat second-tier side Kaiserslautern in Saturday’s German Cup final in Berlin.

“It’s our first defeat of the season so it will be a test as to how we deal with it because we have a big game on Saturday,” Alonso added.

“Normally it happens earlier in the season, but when it happens in such a big game, it hurts. But we have to use this pain in a positive way — it’s football, the normality is not to lose the first game in the 52nd game.”

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