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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Lookman and Boniface move one step closer to the final with Atalanta and Leverkusen

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Three Nigerian players, Ademola Lookman, Victor Boniface, and Nathan Tella, are vying for a spot in this year’s Europa League final.

Lookman’s Italian club Atalanta secured a crucial 1-1 draw in France against Olympique Marseille in their first-leg semi-final clash.

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Meanwhile, Boniface and Tella had a brighter outcome as Bayern Leverkusen continued their impressive run with a 2-0 victory away to Roma at the Stadio Olympico.

Rumble in France

Marseille fought back from a deficit to force a 1-1 draw against Atalanta in the opening leg of their UEFA Europa League semi-final. Despite dominating large parts of the game, the French team failed to take advantage of their control.

The visitors took a surprise lead on 11 minutes through former West Ham forward Gianluca Scamacca, who converted from Teun Koopmeiners’ pass.

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Marseille responded swiftly, with Chancel Mbemba equalising with a well-deserved long-range strike.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed two chances on either side of halftime for the host, which eventually proved costly.

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While Marseille continued to impress after the break, they struggled to create precise openings, with substitute Iliman Ndiaye hitting the woodwork with the best chance.

Lookman was brought into the game just before the hour mark but couldn’t significantly impact the outcome.

The second leg takes place in Italy on Thursday, 9 May.

Victory for Super Eagles duo

In the other semi-final, a stunning curled effort from Robert Andrich helped Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen secure a 2-0 lead in the first leg against AS Roma in Rome.

The German side took the lead when a calamitous error from Rick Karsdorp gifted Florian Wirtz the chance to open the scoring. In the second half, Andrich delivered a magnificent strike to secure a comfortable advantage.

Nathan Tella entered the game against Roma in the 77th minute. With the outcome of Thursday’s tie, Leverkusen extended their unbeaten run this season to a remarkable 47 matches.

Roma and Leverkusen will reconvene next Thursday for the second leg in Germany, with a place in the final in Dublin against Atalanta or Marseille on 22 May.

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Last man

Samuel Chukwueze remains the most recent Super Eagles player to win the Europa League.

However, after AC Milan’s elimination, the trio of Ademola Lookman, Victor Boniface, and Nathan Tella are now aiming to join the ranks of Nigerian Europa League champions.

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