Xabi Alonso admits he was outcoached by Atalanta’s Gian Piero Gasperini

On Wednesday evening, Bayer Leverkusen were humbled 3-0 by Atalanta in the Europa League final. As well as this, Die Werkself’s 51-game unbeaten run came crashing down as the invincibles became invisible on the big stage.

From the first whistle, while Atalanta were maintaining a relentless press at all times, Leverkusen appeared to be far off the pace. With heavy touch and loose passes plaguing their performance, they were never able to get a foothold in the tie.

To make matters worse, without a focal point up front, there was never an option to play a long ball when pressure was applied. A tactical masterclass from Gasperini, but a nightmare for Xabi Alonso, who admitted after the final whistle that tactically Leverkusen were outplayed:

“Yes, we have to analyse after the game. Maybe something wasn’t right. There were a lot of one-on-one situations. Maybe we made too many small passes in the last phase. Today, we should have played a few long balls.

“But that’s not our way. We don’t want to change our system. We always try to play with our game plan, but today that didn’t work. We had some problems.”

Whether it be the starting XI or the game plan itself—perhaps a combination of the two—Die Werkself never appeared to be in the game. However, this should not negatively reflect on the Italians, who were inspiring.

In midfield, Éderson dictated the pace of the game, while former Charlton Athletic winger Ademola Lookman continuously tormented the Leverkusen rearguard. Defensively, Atalanta offered the German champions very little, becoming just the second team this season to prevent Alonso’s side from scoring.

In the end, Atalanta became deserved champions—a fairytale story for the ages. As for Leverkusen, they have the chance to redeem themselves and claim the domestic double on Saturday when they face Kaiserslautern in the DFB-Pokal final.

GGFN | Will Shopland

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