Nigerian forward Ademola Lookman became the first player to score a hat-trick in a UEFA Europa League final as Atalanta stunned Bayer Leverkusen 3-0, dramatically halting the Bundesliga champions’ 51-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

It’s Atalanta’s first-ever UEFA Europa League title — their first major title win since 1963 – thus inflicting a first defeat of the season on the newly-crowned German champions in the 2023/24 final at the Dublin Arena on Wednesday.

And it was the Serie A side that struck first in the 12th minute in a wonderfully crafted goal courtesy of Lookman, who ghosted into the box completely unmarked and fired a clinical, first-time strike past Matěj Kovář following some delightful link-up play involving Teun Koopmeiners and Davide Zappacosta.

The Nigerian winger then added to the tally with a sublime finish to the admiration of even Leverkusen players. He received the ball, went past Granit Xhaka, nutmegged the ex-Arsenal star, before launching a stunning long-range effort from the edge of the box, which went straight into the goal as he completed his brace within 26 minutes of the game.

Leverkusen almost had an unexpected lifeline when Florian Wirtz picked out Álex Grimaldo but the Spaniard failed to execute the lob and shot straight at Juan Musso, with the Argentine standing way outside his goal.

Alonso’s men had failed to get going in the opening 45 minutes, while the tactically astute Gian Piero Gasperini had seen his game plan come to fruition in Dublin.

Die Werkself came out after the break with greater intensity, and Jeremie Frimpong fired a warning sign for the Bergamo outfit as he lashed a left-footed volley over the bar from Amine Adli’s ball across the box.

The Germans desperately needed another comeback, which epitomised their season, but were lacking their usual edge against La Dea, who had their cards firmly marked.

Ultimately, Lookman extinguished any hopes of Leverkusen forging a way back into this contest with a ferocious angled finish from the left-hand side after being teed up by Gianluca Scamacca.

The Nigerian wrote the biggest piece of history with his third goal of the game in the 75th minute, which made him the first player to score a hat-trick in the final of the competition. The only player to have come close is Jupp Heynckes, who scored a hat-trick for Mönchengladbach in their first-leg win at home to Twente in the final of the UEFA Cup in 1975. However, it was a two-legged final then, unlike the one-leg approach now applied by European body UEFA.

Lookman’s first-half brace had made him the first African to score a brace in the final of a major European competition before adding the historic third.

The hat-trick took the 26-year-old’s tally to five goals in the Europa League and 15 goals plus eight assists in all competitions this season.

Leverkusen, who have two Nigerians in their squad, Victor Boniface and Nathan Tella, were unbeaten in 51 games before the final, having won the Bundesliga with a 34-game unblemished run, but all that came to an end in their 52nd game against the firepower of the Italians, who were led by Lookman.

Boniface and Tella were introduced in the second half.

Boniface is Leverkusen’s highest goal scorer this season with 21 goals and 10 assists in 33 appearances, but the in-form forward was only introduced at the start of the second half by Xabi Alonso with the hopes of the Nigerian turning things around for them.

The second half was an all-white traffic but Lookman took the shine off his compatriots to help Atalanta win their first title since their Coppa Italia triumph in 1963.

It’s third time lucky for Lookman, after scoring three goals to help Nigeria reach the AFCON final last February, losing to hosts Ivory Coast, before their Coppa Italia final defeat to Juventus last week.

Now, the former Leicester City man laughs last at the end of the 2023/24 season after the triumph in Dublin, which soothes the pain of losing the 2023 AFCON and the Coppa Italia and now stakes his claim for the Africa Player of The Year Award – which Boniface is also likely to be in contention for.