Madrid - A sea of cheering Real Madrid fans swamped the streets of Spain's capital in a joyous victory party early Sunday after snatching their 10th Champions League title in a dramatic come-from-behind 4-1 victory over local rivals Atletico Madrid.
Tens of thousands of supporters roared with delight as Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest of the winning squad arrived at the central Cibeles Square, the traditional home for raucous Real Madrid victory celebrations, in an open-topped white bus just before 6am.
Fans cheered Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos as, following tradition, he leant over a stage and wrapped a club flag around a statue of the Greek goddess Cybele that adorns a fountain in the square before giving it a kiss.
"In 2002 I was there to celebrate Real's ninth Champions League win. So I could not miss this one," said Jorge Rodriguez, a 30-year-old nurse who was wrapped in a Real Madrid flag.
Many fans had danced to thumping rock music and chanted in the square for hours as they waited for their heroes to return from Lisbon for a victorious welcome in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Delirious Real supporters who had been following the Lisbon match on giant screens or television flooded onto Madrid's streets, set off firecrackers, beeped car horns and surged into the city centre to celebrate the end of their 12-year wait for the "Decima" - a 10th European trophy.
Fans who had packed into Real Madrid's 81,000-capacity Bernabeu stadium cheered as they watched the win in a live relay.
Millions of other Spaniards followed the action on television in overspilling bars and cafes or family living rooms.
"It was time for the Decima. We have been waiting a long time," said a joyous 20-year-old student Angela Suarez as she watched Real move ahead on their way to victory in a nail-biting Champions League final, the first in history to feature two teams from the same city.
Crowds of fans chanted "Champions, Champions" while some set of firecrackers.
Some 1,250 police deployed in the Spanish capital to prevent clashes, cutting off traffic in the city centre and setting up check-points to search fans entering the zone.
"That's it. We've done it. But we suffered. For a moment I thought we would have to carry on waiting for the Decima," said 28-year-old hostess Susana Hernandez, dressed in the team's white shirt.
Across town in Atletico's Vicente Calderon stadium, many of the 55,000 fans left in tears.
Atletico supporters stared in silence at the giant screens relaying a story of defeat.
One Atletico fan leaned against a car outside the stadium and wept openly. Another walked away briskly, tears streaming down his face.
The pain was all the greater because Atletico looked set to follow up its first Spanish league title in 18 years with a maiden European Cup when Diego Godin headed home in the first half at the Stadium of Light.
But Real’s Sergio Ramos equalized in the injury time before Gareth Bale, Marcelo, and Cristiano Ronaldo completed Real's win.
"This match is not worth a tear," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. "The word to describe this feeling isn't sadness but bitterness as we didn't achieve the objectives we set for ourselves.
"But tomorrow is another day."
"It's a big blow. We were two minutes from being champions of Europe," said a teary-eyed, 23-year-old engineering student, David Montero, dressed in his team's red-and-white jersey.
"It is very hard to lose that way because we were so close and the fans were so excited. But we had a good season, we can be proud," said Aitor Ramos, 44-year-old bank manager and life-long Atletico fan.
Atletico were playing in their first European final in 40 years and had been praying to take the trophy for the first time in the club's history, just a week after they won the Spanish league.
Nevertheless, they have enjoyed an extraordinary revival in the year and a half since Simeone took over, revolutionising a team that had been overshadowed by vastly wealthier and far more famous local rivals Real Madrid. - Sapa-AFP