LONDON (AFP) - Avram Grant let his emotions hang out as he insisted the critics should get off his back after Chelsea booked a first Champions League final appearance.
Grant's side beat Liverpool 3-2 after extra-time in Wednesday's semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge to set up an all-English showdown with Manchester United in Moscow on May 21.
It was an emotional victory for Grant for a variety of reasons. A place in the final of Europe's elite club competition gives him vindication and the respect he felt he always deserved after replacing Jose Mourinho in September.
But, while the final whistle brought joy for Grant, it was also tinged with sadness. The Israeli revealed after the match that he planned to travel to Auschwitz on Thursday to give a speech to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.
"Since day one there have been so many microscopes on me. I understand the criticism before I took over but not after. I have needed to prove more than others," Grant said.
"I respect the past but I work for the future and present. We play good football at the right time. It is not easy to play three games like these in eight days and with extra-time as well because Liverpool were rested.
"This was a special day for me. Hard but very special. This is Holocaust day in my country and I will be making a visit to Auschwitz on Thursday.
"My father buried my grandfather with his own hands, as well as his mother and his sister, but he always looked to the future, so this day always has an extra significance.
"He was the most optimistic and strong person I have ever known, so to reach the Champions League Final today of all days was unbelievable."
While the suspicion remains that Grant has been extremely fortunate to inherit a squad packed with world-class players who refuse to accept defeat, no-one can question his record so far.
In reaching the final he has achieved something even his lauded predecessor Jose Mourinho couldn't manage at Chelsea. The Blues had stumbled three times previously at this stage, twice against Liverpool during Mourinho's reign.
Now Grant wants his players to make more history by pipping United to the Premier League title before beating them in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.
"We have created history. That is very important but we are still fighting for the title," he said.
"It is strange to have two English teams in Moscow. It could be a great final. We have played all the important games better than the other matches; against Arsenal, Man Utd and Liverpool."
When Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez reflects on what went wrong he should look no further than his own mirror. Benitez's withering pre-match criticism of Didier Drogba's occasional theatrics came back to haunt him in a big way as the Ivorian scored twice to cap a dynamic display.
Drogba, who pinned a picture of Benitez next to his peg in the dressing-room, scored the opener in the 33rd minute before Fernando Torres equalised after half-time to send the tie to extra-time.
Frank Lampard's 98th minute penalty after Sami Hyypia fouled Michael Ballack restored Chelsea's lead and ensured there wasn't a dry eye in the stadium as the England midfielder celebrated his first goal since the death of his mother last week.
Then Drogba added a third goal seven minutes later with a close range finish from Nicolas Anelka's cross. Ryan Babel's late strike gave Liverpool brief hope of another European miracle but this time it was beyond them.
Drogba admitted Benitez's comments had given him an extra incentive to play a match-winning role. "Benitez is a fantastic coach and I was a bit disappointed but I think he felt his team was not strong enough and Chelsea were going to beat them," he said.
After a tumultuous season at Anfield, Benitez will finish without a trophy for the second consecutive season. Now the Spaniard has to focus on finding the missing ingredient that will turn Liverpool from pretenders to serious contenders for the Premier League
"The scouting department is working. We must win our last two games then try to improve the squad," he said. "You never know. Sometimes one player can make a massive difference, like Torres, or sometimes you need three or four."
|11||D. Drogba||33' 105'|
|Coach: A. Grant|
for S. Kalou 70'
for J. Cole 91'
for F. Lampard 119'
|AFC Champions League Wrap: ´Lacklustre´ Guangzhou held, Ulsan win again|
|Montella takes heart from Juve defeat|
|La Liga Preview: Vallecano meet Almeria in crunch relegation clash, Valladolid visit Sevilla|
|Eredivisie Preview: In-form PSV out to dent Vitesse´s title hopes|
|Ligue 1 Preview: Evian host Valenciennes in crucial relegation clash|
|Falcao can make World Cup claims surgeon|
|Ronaldo mentoring Jese, says Pepe|
|UEFA investigate Bayern banners|
|Good hopeful over World Cup prospects|
|Lamela could return this season, claims Sherwood|
|Vermaelen unsure over Arsenal future|
|Cambiasso vows to play on despite uncertain Inter future|
|Castro: No favourites in Porto, Napoli tie|
|Sunderland hire Congerton as sporting director|
|Southampton appoint Krueger as chairman|
|Conte could rotate for Europa League|
|Labadie given 10-match ´biting´ ban|
|Rodgers has restored fear factor, says Fowler|
|Napoli can climb to second, says Reina|
|Newcastle should sack Pardew, say fan group|
|Monk pleased with Swansea performance levels|
|Hernanes backs Inter for top four|
|Cellino ´humiliated´ by Leeds saga|
|Sunderland need Fletcher, insists Poyet|
|Robben hits out at Wenger|
|Monchengladbach extend Favre contract|
|Returning Lucas seeking World Cup berth|
|Abbiati: Milan going in the wrong direction|
|West Brom suffer Brunt injury blow|
|Simeone warning inspired convincing win, says Filipe Luis|
|Agbonlahor eyeing 40-point mark|
|Beckenbauer concerned by Barca-esque Bayern|
|Rooney keen to captain club and country|
|Copa Libertadores Wrap: Bocanegra´s late show clinches draw for Atletico Nacional|
|CONCACAF Champions League: San Jose Earthquakes 1 Toluca 1|
|Urawa Reds apologise for racist banner|
|MLS Preview: Colorado to open campaign at Red Bulls|
|A-League Preview: Premier´s Plate within reach for Brisbane|
|Bayern Munich question Arsenal´s tactics|
|Bundesliga Preview: Struggling Leverkusen face biggest test|
|League Two Wrap: Torquay shock Rochdale, Chesterfield held|
|League One Wrap: Wolves break club record, Brentford and Orient successful|
|Milan were lacking psychologically, says Seedorf|
|Ozil blow for Arsenal|
|Simeone salutes second-half display|
|Championship Wrap: Reading stun Leeds, Blackpool end barren streak|
|UEFA Champions League: Bayern Munich 1 Arsenal 1 (3-1 agg)|
|UEFA Champions League: Atletico Madrid 4 Milan 1 (5-1 agg)|
|AFC Champions League Wrap: Mariners overcome Sanfrecce, Seoul held|
|Cousillas: City can stun Barca|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Sevilla v Real Betis|
|Charlton appoint Riga|
|New deal for Heimeroth|
|FA reject Walters appeal|
|Mertens tipped for starring role|
|Aluko getting back to his best|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Lyon v Viktoria Plzen|
|Grosso takes control of Juve´s youth team|
|Blanc: PSG still playing Euro catch-up|
|Kaboul ban overturned|
|Pardew hit with seven-game ban|
|McCann blow for Wigan|
|Cabaye has no regrets over PSG move|
|Martinez taking no risks with Jagielka|
|I turned down Juve in 2012 - Robben|
|Lambert wants more from Tonev|
|Wanchope: City can beat Barcelona|
|Wanchope: City can beat Barcelona|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Tottenham v Benfica|
|Remy hungry for World Cup place|
|Martino: We have not been consistent|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Ludogorets v Valencia|
|Inter unlikely to make moves for Dzeko, Torres|
|American firm acquire United shares|
|Callejon predicting strong Napoli era|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Juventus v Fiorentina|
|Eto´o hints at Chelsea stay|
|Hughton pleased with Bassong performances|
|Barca treble still on the cards - Alexis|
|Monk: Michu close to Swansea return|
|Solskjaer hoping to inspire Cardiff strikers|
|Toprak: Restoring pride is important|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: AZ v Anzhi|
|Charlton sack Powell after FA Cup exit|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Basel v Red Bull Salzburg|
|Move on from Diouf blow - Dufner|
|Fonte backs Rodriguez for World Cup|
|Stoke fear extended Huth absence|
|Anichebe calls for West Brom spirit|
|Courtois rubbishes Real rumours|
|Zenit thank sacked Spalletti|
|Manchester City positive ahead of Barcelona trip|
|Martinez hopes for Deulofeu stay|
|Kroos undecided on future|
|CONCACAF Champions League: Alajuelense 0 Arabe Unido 0|
|Argentina Primera Division Wrap: Velez Sarsfield close in on top|
|Paraguay Division Profesional Wrap: Nacional Asuncion into second|
|De Boer planning Ajax stay|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Porto v Napoli|
|La Liga Wrap: Strugglers Rayo, Malaga pick up valuable away wins|
|Primeira Liga: Maritimo 2 Vitoria Guimaraes 1|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Paris Saint-Germain v Bayer Leverkusen|
|Turkish Super Lig Wrap: Fenerbahce, Trabzonspor clash abandoned|
|Seedorf upbeat over Milan chances|
|Wenger outlines Arsenal belief|
|Russian Premier League Wrap: Lokomotiv go top, Anzhi post first win|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Barcelona v Manchester City|
|Castro calls for fans´ support|
|Survival fight wide open, says Mutch|
|Bruce calls for league focus|
|Hoeness admits tax fraud|
|Shea returns to Stoke|
|Van den Brom leaves Anderlecht|
|Stevens ready for Stuttgart challenge|
|Liverpool clash excites Carrick|
|Villa eyeing top-half finish, claims Bertrand|
|Silva happy to remain in Paris|
|Gosling admits FA charge|
|Getafe confirm Contra as new coach|
|Reina considers future America move|
|Giroud: We must believe against Bayern|
|Wolves lodge complaints over alleged racist abuse|
|Gladbach sign Sommer to replace Ter Stegen|
|Getafe part company with Garcia|
|Strootman World Cup hopes in serious doubt|
|Clyne backs Palace to survive|
|Liverpool striving for perfection, says Allen|
|Simeone expecting tough Milan test|
|De Guzman confident ahead of West Brom clash|
|Guardiola wary of Arsenal threat|
|Mel speculation is ´crazy´, says Foster|
|Taarabt not fearing Atletico|
|Mourinho expects to lose Torres for ´couple of weeks´|
|Heitinga: Survival a trophy for Fulham|
|Carvajal plays down injury fears|
|Oxlade-Chamberlain eyes Arsenal cup success|
|Benitez praises Reina, Higuain|
|Shaw focusing on Southampton not England|
|Bayern must be aggressive, says Guardiola|
|Venezuela Primera Division Wrap: Zamora increase advantage with Tachira scalp|
|Uruguay Primera Division Wrap: Nacional capitalise on Fenix fumble|
|Liga MX Wrap: Tigres UANL end Cruz Azul unbeaten run|
|Ecuador Primera A Wrap: Independiente, Loja slip up to send Emelec top|
|Costa Rica Primera Division Wrap: Wins for Herediano, Deportivo Saprissa|
|Liga del Futbol Profesional Boliviano Wrap: Club Universitario open gap|
|Chile Primera Division Wrap: Colo Colo cruise past Union La Calera|
|Benitez: 11th-hour injuries could not halt Napoli|
|La Liga Wrap: Real capitalise on Barca slip-up, Valencia and Bilbao draw|
|Primeira Liga Wrap: Benfica extend lead, Porto close in on Sporting|
|Garcia frustrated by toothless Roma|