Lookman breaks series of records with hat-trick in Europa League final

Nigeria international Ademola Lookman has written his name into the history books of European football after scoring a hat-trick in the final of the UEFA Europa League against Bayer Leverkusen. The 26-year-old was Atalanta’s most decisive player during Wednesday’s big game as the Italian side won their first major European trophy following a deserved 3-0 victory.

Atalanta went into the Europa League final on the back of a fine run of form that had seen them lose just once in their previous nine matches. Their only defeat in that period, however, came against Juventus in the Coppa Italia final, which saw them miss out on the trophy.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s side also faced the daunting task of ending Leverkusen’s astounding unbeaten run, with the German champions having gone 51 matches without tasting defeat. Despite the odds being stacked against them, it was Atalanta who started the game as the more threatening side.

Ademola Lookman breaks series of records with hat-trick in Europa League final
Photo by Icon Sport

The Black and Blues made a flying start to the game and would be rewarded for their early pressure when Lookman put them in front after just 12 minutes. The Nigerian ghosted in behind the ball-watching Exequiel Palacios to tap home from Davide Zappacosta’s cross.

Lookman would once again prove to be decisive when he doubled Atalanta’s lead before the half-hour mark. The winger picked up a loose ball in the half-space and went on a solo run before unleashing a shot that saw the ball land in the far corner. He completed his hat-trick in the second half, once again cutting in from the right before firing the ball into the net.

Ademola Lookman etches his name in history books with Europa League performance 

With his hat-trick, Lookman wrote his name in European football folklore. First, the former Everton and RB Leipzig forward has joined the exclusive list of Nigerian players to have scored in the final of a major UEFA competition. 

Lookman has now become just the third Nigerian to achieve the aforementioned feat after Alex Iwobi and Joe Aribo. Iwobi scored in the Europa League final in 2019 when Arsenal lost to Chelsea, while Aribo was also on the scoresheet during Rangers’ defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the final of the same competition three years later.

Lookman’s hat-trick against Leverkusen in the Europa League final also makes him the first African footballer to score thrice in the final of a major UEFA competition, according to Opta. Furthermore, Lookman has also now scored the sixth hat-trick in the final of a major UEFA competition, becoming the first to do so since Jupp Heynckes' scored thrice for Borussia Monchengladbach in the UEFA Cup final in 1975.

Lookman wins first senior trophy 

Meanwhile, Lookman has now won his first major trophy at senior level after lifting the Europa League trophy with Atalanta. The winger has been playing professional football for the past nine years but hadn’t yet laid his hands on any major piece of silverware.

Having been born in England, Lookman played for the English at youth level and was part of the side that won the U-20 FIFA World Cup in 2017. He has, however, had a few near-misses in his professional career with regards to trophies.

The 26-year-old was part of the Nigeria team that lost the final of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024) to Ivory Coast three months ago, and was also a losing finalist in the Coppa Italia last week against Juventus.

Lookman has, however, now been third-time lucky after winning the Europa League with Atalanta. Nigeria has always had a great relationship with the Europa League, with a number of footballers from the West African country winning the competition in the past.

Taribo West and Nwankwo Kanu won the Europa League with Lazio in 1998, while John Mikel Obi was also part of the Chelsea side that won the competition in 2013 after they beat Benfica in the final. Victor Moses is another Nigerian footballer who has a Europa League medal after winning it with Chelsea in 2019. Chidi Odiah may not have played much for the Super Eagles in his prime but he was also a member of the CSKA side that defeated Sporting Lisbon to win the UEFA Cup in 2005.

Lookman breaks series of records with hat-trick in Europa League final
Emmanuel Ayamga

Emmanuel Ayamga is an Asante Kotoko fan and a passionate sports journalist with a little over five years of experience writing about African football.

His articles and features have been published in renowned news media like The Guardian, DW, Al Jazeera and Sportskeeda. His bylines can also be found in the UK journals World Soccer Magazine and These Football Times.