AC Milan fans celebrate Champions League triumph

Updated: 2007-05-25 08:40

MILAN, Italy -- AC Milan returned to a hero's welcome Thursday, a day after clinching European soccer's biggest prize for the seventh time.

Thousands of fans lined the streets in downtown Milan to salute the players and technical staff, who paraded through the city aboard a bus following Wednesday's 2-1 victory over Liverpool in the Champions League final in Athens.

Wearing T-shirts in the club's red and black colors, the players held the European Cup and celebrated with supporters, many of whom brandished Rossoneri flags.

About 2,000 fans met the team earlier when it landed at Milan's Malpensa airport.

"We are in seventh heaven," 30-year-old "Milanista" Fabio Bononi said.

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti, who also led the club to European glory in 2003, said Wednesday's victory was the best of his career. He also won the trophy as a Milan player in 1989 and '90.

"After a very difficult year, we have won something extraordinary," Ancelotti said. "We have done so well because only a few of us believed we could."

Milan was nearly barred from the competition following sanctions in the Italian match-fixing scandal. Instead, it got revenge on Liverpool in a rematch of the 2005 final, when Milan lost on penalties after squandering a 3-0 halftime lead.

"That was nightmare. This is a dream," Bononi said.

Thursday's Italian news dailies also lauded Milan's triumph.

"And go!!!!!!!" read the front page of Gazzetta Dello Sport, each exclamation mark representing one of Milan's seven European Cup triumphs.

"Milan: Seven Beauties," ran a headline in Milan-based Corriere Della Sera.

"Inzaghi's magic night," Rome-based La Repubblica said, referring to Milan striker Filippo Inzaghi, who scored his team's goals.

"Two goals in the final is what you dream about as a kid," Inzaghi said. "Last night's were the most important of my life."

Thursday's parade ended in Milan's Piazza Del Duomo, where, a night before, similar numbers had gathered to watch the game on a giant screen.

After the final whistle Wednesday, rejoicing fans tore through the streets on foot, bicycles, mopeds and cars, shouting "Forza Milan!" and "Champions of Europe!"

Drivers honked their horns, while rock band Queen's victory anthem, "We Are The Champions" could be heard on car stereos.

The celebrations will continue into the weekend with Milan having announced a party at San Siro stadium on Friday night.

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