Europa League Final Reaction | Bayer Leverkusen collapse on the big stage

Atalanta overcame Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Republic of Ireland, to be crowned Europa League champions. For the Werkself, this defeat sees them fall short of their dreams of completing an unprecedented treble, as Atalanta claim only the second major honour in their club’s history.

From the first whistle, Gian Piero Gasperini’s side did not make it easy for the German champions. Atalanta looked to apply as much pressure as possible on Leverkusen when they were in possession, and the German outfit could not live with the Italians.

Despite consistently proving to be cool and calm under pressure, Die Werkself folded on the big stage. A lack of concentration, poor passing, and minimal movement saw Alonso’s side fail to get into a final that Atalanta were beginning to control, and within twelve minutes, they pounced.

Ademola Lookman placed Gasperini’s side in a much-deserved early lead before adding a magical second goal just prior to the half-hour mark. As Atalanta raced into a 2-0 lead, the Serie A side left Leverkusen with a lot of work to do heading into the second half. 

However, after the interval, despite working themselves back into the game, Leverkusen remained second-best. With Éderson controlling the midfield and Lookman tormenting Bayer’s backline, there was little the Bundesliga champions could do to get a foothold in the game.

Then, with a quarter of an hour left on the clock, Lookman made history. For the first time since the Europa League Final became a one-game affair, a hattrick was scored.

A beautifully taken third goal saw the former Charlton Athletic winger cannon a shot into the top corner, putting the final to bed. For once, there would be no late Leverkusen Magic; instead, it was delight for the Italians as Atalanta toppled Die Werkself and wrote their name in European history, claiming the 2024 Europa League trophy.

Bayer Leverkusen collapsed on the big stage

Over the course of this campaign, Leverkusen have continued to display why they are considered one of the greatest sides to have graced European football. Whether it be domestically or on the continent, the Werkself have dazzled and delighted without fail.

Unbeaten throughout the entire season in all competitions, Alonso’s side have been a pleasure to watch, inspiring the globe on a weekly basis. However, on the big stage, in the Europa League final, Die Werkself collapsed.

Only once before have Leverkusen tasted success in Europe, having lifted the 1988 UEFA Cup after victory against Espanyol. Nevertheless, European glory was not to return to the BayArena. 

Normally, Leverkusen are spellbinding, unrelenting, and utterly captivating, but against Atalanta, they appeared slow, sluggish, and vulnerable to every ounce of pressure. As well as this, without a focal point upfront like Victor Boniface or Patrik Schick in the first half, they had no outlet to look for, something that quite quickly became a glaring issue.

It is rare that Alonso misjudges a game plan, but tonight, Leverkusen’s balance was all over the place. With misplaced passes in the midfield and heavy touches in defence, while Atalanta oozed confidence in everything they were doing, Die Werkself’s mistakes only made Gasperini’s side feel more at home.

The second half would prove no different, as Leverkusen failed to find any inspiration. Perhaps a game too much, perhaps they found their match, but from the first whistle, they never looked like being crowned champions.

However, with a DFB-Pokal final awaiting them against Kaiserslautern on Saturday evening, Leverkusen have the chance to bounce back and end their season on the high note it deserves. Nevertheless, the long-awaited question has been answered emphatically: Leverkusen are certainly beatable.

GGFN | Will Shopland

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