Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Europa League misery will not taint Alonso´s Leverkusen pride

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 22 May 2024

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Xabi Alonso will not allow Bayer Leverkusen’s Europa League final defeat against Atalanta to alter his pride, after their historic 51-game unbeaten run ended on Wednesday.

The Bundesliga champions were eyeing an unlikely treble, with the DFB-Pokal final to come this weekend, but those plans came crashing down in a 3-0 loss to Atalanta.

Ademola Lookman single-handedly powered Gian Piero Gasperini’s side to their first title in 61 years, producing an individual performance for the ages with a decisive hat-trick.

European heartbreak marked Leverkusen’s first loss this season, with their last defeat coming to Bochum on the last day of the 2022-23 Bundesliga campaign, as Alonso’s side were finally stopped.

Yet the former Liverpool and Bayern Munich midfielder says nothing can take away from Leverkusen’s memorable campaign.

“For me the result today does not change one bit how I feel about my players or what we have been doing,” the Leverkusen head coach told TNT Sports.

“It hurts because we wanted to lift the trophy but you can’t have everything. We lifted the Bundesliga and we have the chance to lift the DFB-Pokal on Saturday.”

Leverkusen are the first team to win the league title but lose the UEFA Cup/Europa League final in the same term since Benfica in 2013-14, and the first German side to do since Borussia Dortmund in 2001-02.

“This season and achievements have surpassed all expectations,” Alonso continued.

“I was hoping and getting ready to maybe do something great but this has been so much more.

“To achieve what we have for a club like Leverkusen is great. To be in the last week of the season having lifted the Bundesliga and then going for the Pokal too means a lot.

“First year as a coach, it is going quite well!”

A monumental occasion at the Aviva Stadium marked Atalanta’s first-ever major European trophy as they became the 10th different Italian side to do so, second only to teams from England (13).

Alonso was unsurprised by the excellence of Gasperini and his Atalanta side, however.

“It is not something they have just done this year, they have been doing it for many years,” the Spaniard said, acknowledging the work of 66-year-old Gasperini.

“They are a special team. Normally we get in better positions ourselves but today we could not.

“We were not able to come back and get that back. It was not meant to be.

“The unbeaten run has come to an end but congratulations to Atalanta, they deserve it, so nothing more to say.”

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