Leverkusen’s Alonso ‘proud’ despite ‘painful’ loss

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Image caption: Defeat for Bayer Leverkusen was their first in all competitions since 27 May last year

Bayer Leverkusen boss Xabi Alonso praised his side’s “exceptional” record-breaking unbeaten run but said it hurts that it was ended in the Europa League final.
The German side have been one of the stories of the season, having gone 51 games without defeat as well as winning the Bundesliga.
But their hopes of ending a long wait for European glory were dashed on Wednesday night as they lost 3-0 to Italian side Atalanta at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

It was their first defeat since 27 May last year and, while Alonso was proud of his side’s achievements over the last year, he said the Europa League final loss was tough to take.
“Atalanta were better than us and they deserve the trophy,” the former Liverpool midfielder said.
“It wasn’t our day. We’ve had a bad night. It hurts that it happened in such an important match.”
He added: “The normality is not to suffer a first defeat in the 52nd game. It’s exceptional what we achieved and we should be proud. But it’s painful.”
Treble hopes end but focus switches to another trophy
Leverkusen had kept their unbeaten run going with some incredible last-minute heroics but that was never an option against an Atalanta side who were in control from the outset.
Ademola Lookman scored a hat-trick to secure a first trophy for the Italian club in 61 years and end Leverkusen’s hopes of completing the season unbeaten, as well as winning a treble of trophies.
“We weren’t able to play as we wished,” added Alonso.
“After the first goal, they showed a great deal of energy and we couldn’t find solutions to counteract that.
“We couldn’t impose ourselves or fashion goalscoring opportunities.”
Leverkusen need to swiftly switch focus to ensure they finish a memorable campaign with a second trophy.
On Saturday they face second-tier side Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final as they look to complete a domestic double.
“To achieve what we have for a club like Leverkusen is great,” Alonso added on TNT Sports.
“To be in the last week of the season having lifted the Bundesliga and playing [the Europa League final], we couldn’t make it, but then going for the Pokal [German Cup] too means a lot.”

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