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EUROPA League

Man U Targets Europa Semi Final Ticket

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Jose Mourinho will be looking for nothing less than a win when they Manchester United confront Anderlecht on Thursday at Old Trafford.

The Portuguese tactician is aware that a success in the competition will help them seal a berth in the next season’s Champions League.
Rene Weiler’s Anderlecht will be looking to score an early goal in order to boost their chances of progressing to the next round of the tournament. A defeat will see them face elimination from the Europe’s second tier club competition.
Manchester United registered a comfortable 2-0 victory over Chelsea in their last Premier League clash. Marcus Rashford opened the score in the first half after a sublime pass from Ander Herrera and the Spanish midfielder doubled the lead in the second half.
Anderlecht will enter the tie after managing a 1-0 victory over KV Oostende in the league. Sofiane Hanni’s 48th minute goal was the difference between the two sides in the end as Anderlecht sealed three points.
The first leg in Belgium ended in a 1-1 draw as Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s first half strike was cancelled by Leander Dendoncker’s late header. A clean sheet would be sufficient for United to make it to the semi-final.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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EUROPA League

Hat-trick hero Lookman takes winding road to Europa League triumph

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 Europa League - Final - Atalanta v Bayer Leverkusen - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland - May 22, 2024 Atalanta's Ademola Lookman poses for a picture with the trophy after winning the Europa League Final REUTERS/Paul Childs 

Atalanta’s Europa League hat-trick hero Ademola Lookman admitted that he had to wait a while for success after years in and out of favour at different clubs but said it was “just the beginning” after he sank Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday.

The Nigeria forward became the first person to score a hat-trick in a Europa League final in the 3-0 win, which handed the Bergamo club their first major trophy in 61 years and ended the German champions’ remarkable 51-game unbeaten streak.

“Maybe it could have come earlier, but it’s come now,” said the 26-year-old Lookman, who bounced around in England with Everton, Fulham and Leicester City and in Germany with RB Leipzig before settling in Atalanta two seasons ago.

“This is just the beginning. I hope for more nights like this and to just keep getting better and better,” he told a news conference.

Lookman, who was a youth international for England, credited the Atalanta coaching staff and leadership of manager Gian Piero Gasperini for his revival. Since arriving at the club, he has scored 30 goals in 76 matches.

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He pointed in particular to Gasperini’s belief in attacking football that has helped him to flourish.

“The first conversations I had with him made me look at football a lot different. It made things simple. It allowed me to play my game in a different light. I’m very grateful to him,” he said.

Asked if he would have imagined such a night in his wildest dreams while starting out as a teenager at Charlton Athletic, Lookman responded: “Probably yeah.”

“I’ve always had the confidence in my ability to create, to score goals, to help my team mates. In the past two years I’ve been able to take my game to a whole new level,” he said.

-Reuters

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EUROPA League

Ademola is Player of the Match

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Atalanta’s hat-trick hero Ademola Lookman was named Player of the Match after scoring a historic hat trick for his club in the Europa League final match.

 UEFA’s Technical Observer Panel said: “[It’s awarded] for obvious reasons and his all-round enthusiasm and energy. [He was] really sharp and his execution was spot on.”

Ademola Lookman, Player of the Match, speaking to TNT Sports: remarked: “It’s one of the best nights of my life. It was an amazing performance from the team. We did it – fantastic. I’m just happy we won. We made history tonight.”

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Nigeria’s Sports Minister salute Europa League hero, Ademola Lookman

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Ademola Lookman, the history maker is held aloft

Nigeria’s  Minister of Sports Development, John Owan Enoh, has showered encomiums on Super Eagles winger Ademola Lookman for his extraordinary performance in the Europa League final.

 Lookman scored a historic hat-trick, leading Atalanta to their first European title on Thursday night in Dublin, Ireland.

Lookman’s three goals secured a 3-0 victory for Atalanta against Bayer Leverkusen, ending their opponents’ 51-game undefeated streak and marking the first-ever hat-trick in a Europa League final.

This victory also signifies Atalanta’s second major trophy, their first since winning the Coppa Italia 61 years ago.

In his congratulatory message, Enoh praised Lookman’s exceptional talent and dedication, which have brought immense pride to Nigeria.

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“Ademola Lookman has demonstrated remarkable skill and resilience, leading Atalanta to a historic victory. His performance in the Europa League final was nothing short of spectacular, and he has made Nigeria proud on the global stage. We celebrate his achievement and look forward to many more milestones in his career with club and country,” said Senator Enoh.

The Sports Minister also extended his congratulations to Victor Boniface and Nathan Tella, who played pivotal roles in leading Bayer Leverkusen to the final. Their contributions were integral in securing the German Bundesliga title, with the German Cup still within reach.

“Victor Boniface and Nathan Tella have also shown exceptional prowess and determination throughout the season. Their journey to the Europa League final and success in the Bundesliga is commendable. They serve as an inspiration to young athletes in Nigeria and around the world. I urge them to take pride in their performances and success this season,” Senator Enoh added.

The Nigerian football community celebrates these achievements, reflecting the growing influence and talent of Nigerian players in international football.

Lookman scored the opener in the 12th minute through superior sharpness, before hitting a brace with a fine curler in the 26th minute. He secured his hat trick in the 75th with a pile-driver hit of a goal.

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