UEFA Champions League winners Liverpool FC have received a rousing reception on their return to England, with 300,000 people lining the streets of the city to acclaim the victorious players.
The Liverpool party – whose players remarkably came from three goals down at half-time to defeat AC Milan on penalties at the Atatürk Olympic stadium on Wednesday evening – celebrated long into the night, arriving at Liverpool's John Lennon airport late in the afternoon. Captain Steven Gerrard and manager Rafael Benítez led the party off the aeroplane, carrying the European Champion Clubs' Cup – which is now Liverpool's to keep after their fifth victory in the competiton, with a new version of the trophy to be commissioned by UEFA.
From the airport, the party boarded an open-top bus which took them on a tour of the streets of Liverpool, which were packed with jubilant supporters. The bus slowly made its way through the crowds, many of whom were waving flags and replicas of the trophy.
In addition, many present flourished banners evoking some of Liverpool's past glories, particularly the European Cup triumphs of 1977, 1978, 1981 and 1984. A number of players from those successes were present, with Tommy Smith – who scored in Liverpool's first European Cup win against VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach in Rome – a particularly popular presence.
The streets were a sea of red, and Gerrard said the fans had played a crucial role in the fightback in Istanbul. "Last night was the best moment of my career," said the English international. "I just can't describe how good it felt to get my hands on that European Cup for the Liverpool fans. It was just the best feeling ever. The supporters are absolutely fantastic. The way they came out and backed us, and the noise they made, was just unbelievable."
'Great, great night'
Former Valencia CF coach Benítez, meanwhile, was overwhelmed by the scenes, saying: "The Liverpool supporters are the best in the world. In Valencia the fans would come on to the streets after we'd won a trophy but it wasn't anything like this. This is extra special for me tonight because my wife and daughters are with me on the bus. It's a great, great night and I'm so proud."
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