Lookman 3-0 Leverkusen: Benching Boniface and 2 other mistakes Xabi Alonso made in UEL final defeat

Ademola Lookman's hat-trick ended Bayer Leverkusen's 51-game unbeaten run |Photo Credit: Imago

Lookman 3-0 Leverkusen: Benching Boniface and 2 other mistakes Xabi Alonso made in UEL final defeat

Asukwo Oduo 09:32 - 23.05.2024

Xabi Alonso and Bayer Leverkusen's 51-game unbeaten streak came to an end courtesy of a hat-trick by Super Eagles attacker Ademola Lookman.

Nigeria's Ademola Lookman was the standout player, producing a man-of-the-match performance as Atalanta ended Bayer Leverkusen's 51-game unbeaten run.

The Super Eagles forward was in fine form, firing Atalanta in front as early as the 12th minute.

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The former Everton player scored his brace four minutes before the hour mark, with a fine solo goal; he beat Granit Xhaka just outside the box before firing a rocket into the top corner.

Any hope of a comeback by Bayer Leverkusen was extinguished by Lookman in the 75th minute when he received a pass from Scamacca, dribbled past his marker, and rifled in with his left foot.

Meanwhile, coach Alonso has enjoyed plenty of plaudits this season after his side emerged Bundesliga champions without losing a single game but some of his decisions in the UEFA Europa League final defeat to Atalanta have been called into question..

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Here are some of the tactical mistakes Xabi Alonso made in his side's 3-0 defeat to Atalanta:

1. Benching Victor Boniface

Victor Boniface could not help Leverkusen avoid defeat in the 2023/24 Europa League final | Instagram/Bayer Leverkusen

The build-up to this game was all about the battle between Super Eagles duo Ademola Lookman and Victor Boniface.

While Gasperini gave Lookman the nod, Alonso decided to start Nigerian striker Victor Boniface from the bench, instead going with Amine Adli to lead the attack.

Alonso's decision backfired in the end as Bayer Leverkusen wasted some good chances in the first half as they didn't have a potent finisher leading the line.

Although Boniface was introduced in the second half, it was a little too late, as Atalanta were already in the ascendency.

2. Not adapting to contain Atalanta

Coach Gian Piero Gasperini came up with a master game-plan to frustrate Xabi Alonso and his Bayer Leverkusen side, and it worked perfectly.

Gasperina played three at the back to contain Leverkusen's attacking players, Frimpong and Wirtz. He also deployed his midfielders (Koopmeiners and Ederson) to stifle Bayern Leverkusen's creative outlet Xhaka.

The former Arsenal midfielder was not allowed time and space on the ball to dictate the pace of the game.

Alonso's failure to quickly adapt and counter Gasperini's approach allowed Atalanta to dominate the game and run out 3-0 winners on the night.

3. Late substitutions

This season, Leverkusen have come back from the death on numerous occasions. They scored twice in the last seconds of their semi-final clash with Roma to keep their unbeaten run intact. However, they ran out of luck against a determined Atalanta side.

Xabi Alonso made his first substitution in the 46th minute, bringing in Boniface to replace Stanisic. However, he waited 20 minutes more before making his next introduction with Atalanta still two goals ahead.

Bayer Leverkusen's super-sub, Nathan Tella celebrates the winner. (Photo Credit: Bayer/X)

It took Alonso until the 81st minute before he brought on winger Nathan Tella. It was the introduction of the Nigerian that began to trouble Atalanta's backline.

Who knows if the Nigerian or another wide player had been introduced earlier, the result would have been different, seeing that Atalanta had stifled Leverkusen's midfield, and the only other option was to go wide.

Final Thoughts

Take nothing away from Xabi Alonso and Bayer Leverkusen; they have had an amazing season by any standard.

They still have a chance on Saturday to complete a domestic double when they face Kaiserslautern in the DFB Pokal.