Boniface, Tella, Lookman eye historic Europa League final


By: Ebenezer Bajela

The final of the 2024 Europa League could see three Nigerians chasing glory at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in Ireland come May 22, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.

On Thursday (today), Victor Boniface and Nathan Tella will be in action when Bayer Leverkusen host Roma at BayArena for the second leg of the semi-finals of the Europa League.

For the second season running the two clubs are meeting in the semi-finals, but events in the first leg make the new German champions favourites to overturn last year’s result.

Leverkusen took a giant stride towards meeting either Marseille or Atalanta in the final by running out 2-0 winners at Stadio Olimpico.

With one foot in the Europa League final, Leverkusen will hope to preserve their 48 games unbeaten runs and set a new record for the longest unbeaten streak.

Benfica’s longstanding European record – set between December 1963 and February 1965 – has now been matched, so keeping Roma at bay would cement their place in history.

In the other game, Lookman is on course to guide Atalanta to their first-ever Europa League title and probably their first silverware in 61 years.

Lookman is part of the incredible side that have extended their unbeaten away run in Europe to 11 matches – including last month’s superb 3-0 win at Anfield.

On Thursday, they return to home turf, where they have won 11 of their last 14 matches and a win will see them book a place in the final against Leverkusen.

Any result other than defeat for both Leverkusen and Atalanta means there will be three Nigerians vying for honour in the final later this month meaning a Nigerian is bound to be crown champion.

In recent times, Nigerians have enjoyed a lot of success in the European second-tier league.

In 2021, Samuel Chukwueze, who was the last Nigerian to win the Europa League, was with the Villarreal side that defeated Manchester United 11-10 on penalties following a 1-1 draw during the regulation and extra time.

Meanwhile, in 2022 Joe Aribo and Calvin Bassey were runners-up following Rangers’ defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the game played in Seville, Spain.

While there was no Nigerian in the final between Sevilla and Inter Milan in 2020, the year before that two Nigerians were contested in the final.

Mikel Obi and Alex Iwobi were against each other as Chelsea battled Arsenal in the final of the Europa League.

Despite Iwobi getting on the scoresheet for Arsenal, it was Mikel who had the last laugh as Chelsea defeated the London rivals 4-1 to lift the coveted trophy.