MADRID - Real Madrid fans decked in meringue white erupted in joy in the Spanish capital Saturday as they snatched their 10th Champions League title in a dramatic come-from-behind 4-1 victory that left local rivals Atletico Madrid in tears.
Delirious Real supporters who had been following the Lisbon match on giant screens or on 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 roared in delight 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.
Tens of thousands of Real Madrid fans danced to thumping rock music in the city centre's Cibeles Square, waiting for their heros to return from Lisbon for a victorious welcome in the early hours of Sunday morning.
"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.
A 12-year wait
Awaiting the Real Madrid players, the city set up a white ramp marked "Champions" leading to the square's emblematic fountain, which features the Greek goddess Cybele, a traditional focal point of the team's victory parties.
"I am going with the whole family to take a photo with Cibeles and enjoy it," said 43-year-old public sector worker Jose Luis Perez. "We have been waiting a long time, 12 years."
Ronaldo celebrate in his style. PHOTO BY AFP
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.
"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 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.
"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 had been leading 1-0 until the 93rd minute when Real Madrid equalised in injury time before wreaking havoc in extra time.
"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 Argentine coach Diego Simeone took over, revolutionising a team that had been overshadowed by vastly wealthier and far more famous local rivals Real Madrid.