A sombre memorial service has been held to mark 25 years since the Hillsborough disaster claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool football fans.

Loved ones of those who died were joined at Liverpool's Anfield stadium by players and club officials, with fans also among the 24,000 marking today's emotional anniversary.

The 96 Liverpool fans died in the crush on the Leppings Lane terraces at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium after going to see their team play Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final on 15 April 1989.

As the families of those who did not return home took their places in reserved seats on Anfield's famous Kop for the start of the service, the crowd got to their feet as one with a roar of approval and a huge ovation.

There were also loud cheers and clapping for the gathering of past and present Anfield greats who took their seats.

These included current club captain Steven Gerrard, whose cousin was among the victims, Kenny Dalglish, manager at the time of the disaster, Ian Rush, Phil Thompson, Alan Hansen and Graeme Souness.

More recent players Jamie Carragher, Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman were also in attendance, along with Howard Kendall, Everton's manager in 1989, and current Everton boss Roberto Martinez, who gave the first reading.

On the pitch, thousands of football scarves were laid out in the shape of "96", donated from fans and clubs across the UK and beyond after an appeal from Liverpool for scarves to show a symbol of unity across fan rivalries.

The Rev Kelvin Bolton, from the local parish of Christ Church and Holy Trinity, began the service with a welcome and introduction.

Mr Bolton said it was Easter, a time when Jesus was treated as a criminal "yet innocent in every way".

He said: "25 years, a quarter of a century, a lifetime. Thank you for the example you have given to us of refusing to give up."

Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool's first team manager, gave a reading of Psalm 23, before addressing the Hillsborough families themselves.

Mr Rodgers said his biggest inspiration as manager was each time he came to Anfield and seeing the names of the 96 on the Hillsborough Memorial.

He said: "I feel very humble to be in your company.

"You are the real inspiration for us. Your courage, fortitude, resilience and love for the people you lost, it's what inspires me, every day, as the manager of Liverpool Football Club.

"Thank you for the inspiration you give us all. You'll never walk alone."

Some of those present at today's memorial are witnesses in the new inquest into Britain's worst sporting disaster, which began last month and resumes next week.

The original accidental deaths verdicts in 1991 were quashed in the High Court in 2012 after a long campaign by the fans' families.

Traditional football hymn Abide With Me was sung before the names of the 96 fans were read out.

At each name a light was lit, one by one, on a large piece of sculpture entitled the Band of Life, until all the lights were illuminated.

As the time reached 3.06pm, the exact moment the match was abandoned while the tragedy unfolded, a minute's silence began.

Public transport stopped in the city's main streets and shopping thoroughfares.

The hum and noise from outside the ground faded as a hush fell across the city while Anfield, often a cauldron of noise, also fell into a sombre stillness.

Heads bowed, some fans wiped away silent tears as they remembered the scores of lives lost in Britain's worst sporting disaster.

The minute's silence ended with a round of applause, as across the city bells tolled 96 times at churches and civic buildings.