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'
|Bolton Wanderers 1 Brentford 1: Smith watches on as strugglers snatch point|
|Napoli 2 Inter 1: Higuain at the double as hosts go top|
|Lewandowski: Less pressure on me than Aubameyang|
|Defoe, Larsson to miss Arsenal match|
|Sassuolo 1 Fiorentina 1: Di Francesco´s side extend unbeaten home run|
|Barcelona took ´a step forward´ without Messi - Busquets|
|Unfair to blame Garcia for Roma form - Zanetti|
|Southampton v Liverpool: Returning stars have Ibe in buoyant mood|
|Lewandowski´s five-goal haul recognised for four records|
|Barcelona v Villanovense: Holders get second crack at minnows|
|Verona sack Mandorlini|
|Valencia confirm Nuno departure|
|Premier League clubs reveal agent fees|
|Stoke will not underestimate Sheffield Wednesday – Hughes|
|Robben wants Guardiola to stay at Bayern|
|Aguero allays foot injury concerns|
|Cadiz v Real Madrid: Pepe calls for hard work in Andalusia|
|Bolton confirm players have not been paid for November|
|Neville takes Valencia training following Nuno resignation|
|Mihajlovic targets Coppa Italia triumph|
|Garde confident Villa will survive|
|Everton to make late call on Barry and McCarthy|
|Davids: Messi is an anomaly but Ronaldo just an athlete|
|Simeone open to January signings following Tiago injury|
|Messi leads nominees for Puskas Award|
|Hummels defends himself after media criticism|
|Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar nominated for Ballon d´Or|
|Luis Enrique, Guardiola and Sampaoli up for World Coach of the Year|
|Chelsea about the team, not just Costa - Ivanovic|
|Kuyt open to Feyenoord extension|
|Barcelona lodge complaint over ex-Madrid duo´s Neymar comments|
|Davies wants Manchester City quarter-final to get crazy|
|Ribery ordeal is over – Rummenigge|
|Smalling: Vardy run opens door to non-League hopefuls|
|Bender relieved to end Dortmund losing streak|
|Mata: Manchester United have six finals in December|
|Vardy reveals painful road to Premier League record|
|Pardew urges Newcastle to back McClaren|
|Russian clubs banned from signing Turkish players|
|Klopp expects Coutinho to face Southampton|
|Valverde: Let´s hope Barcelona don´t sign Aduriz|
|De Bruyne relishing link-up with Silva|
|´Crazy´ Munich could convince Guardiola to stay|
|Defiant Garcia refuses to resign despite Roma slump|
|Monk confident Swansea can turn the corner|
|Bellerin: Arsenal can cope without Sanchez|
|McClaren: Newcastle not panicking|
|Klopp delighted with Sturridge, Henderson returns|
|I wouldn´t swap Lukaku for Vardy - Martinez|
|MLS Review: Timbers, Crew to meet in final|
|Nuno saddened by Valencia departure|
|Morata will become a key player - Allegri|
|Serie A Review: Juve revival continues as Roma stutter|
|Ligue 1 Review: Marseille and Monaco share thriller as Caen go second|
|Nuno resigns from Valencia post|
|Palermo 0 Juventus 3: Four Serie A wins in a row for improving champions|
|Neymar: ´MSN´ should be Ballon d´Or final three|
|Madrid must ´give everything in each match´ - Navas|
|´I take full responsibility´ - Monk|
|Neil hails Grabban display after Arsenal draw|
|Arsenal will survive ´bad spell´ - Wenger|
|Klopp proud of ´perfect´ Liverpool win|
|Bundesliga Review: Aubameyang at the double for Dortmund, Leverkusen draw with Schalke|
|Wenger: I nearly rested Sanchez|
|Ronaldo did well, insists Benitez|
|Liverpool 1 Swansea City 0: Milner spot on again as Henderson and Sturridge return|
|Norwich City 1 Arsenal 1: Sanchez, Koscielny limp off as Gunners are held|
|Bilic worried about Sakho muscle injury|
|Angers v PSG: Kurzawa wants unbeaten season|
|Tuchel relieved to see Borussia Dortmund return to winning ways|
|Pulis ´disappointed´ with free-kick decision|
|Manchester City v Hull City: Wounded Tigers must avoid ´a pasting´, warns Davies|
|Reus Deportiu v Atletico Madrid: Simeone´s side face in-form underdogs|
|West Ham needed a second goal - Bilic|
|Deila slams Stokes following Twitter outburst|
|Eibar 0 Real Madrid 2: Bale and Ronaldo on target|
|Borussia Dortmund 4 Stuttgart 1: Aubameyang double hands Kramny a losing start|
|Chelsea performance enthuses Mourinho|
|Mourinho: Costa wouldn´t use a bib to hurt me!|
|Chelsea felt like ´a small team´ to Tottenham - Pochettino|
|West Ham 1 West Brom 1: Reid own goal steals point for Pulis´ men|
|´Impossible´ to compare Icardi and Higuain - Mancini|
|Stoke City v Sheffield Wednesday: Visitors are clear underdogs, claims Carvalhal|
|´It was pretty embarrassing´ - Colback slams Newcastle|
|Pochettino lauds his Tottenham players as ´heroes´|
|Mourinho denies Diego Costa rift|
|Hazard rues ´beautiful´ Lloris save|
|Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1 Celtic 3: Champions triumph despite Stokes storm|
|Inter playing to their strengths - Sarri|
|Tottenham 0 Chelsea 0: Pochettino´s side set record unbeaten run|
|Middlesbrough v Everton: Barry aiming to bounce back|
|AC Milan v Crotone: Mihajlovic targets four wins from four before mid-season break|
|Galliani: Milan refused to sell Niang|
|Premier League loan move unlikely for Drogba|
|Fekir dreams of Barcelona move and Ballon d´Or|
|Inter will not be criticised if they win the Scudetto - Prandelli|
|Newcastle fans right to be angry - McClaren|
|Ghoulam: Napoli-Inter not decisive in Scudetto race|
|Tiago out for at least three months|
|Monk: Klopp must make Liverpool title contenders|
|Lahm praises Bayern for adapting to injuries|
|Central Coast Mariners 0 Western Sydney Wanderers 2: Visitors win fifth straight|
|Arsenal building to title challenge - Mertesacker|
|Henry: Premier League title a five-horse race|
|Olsson urges Ibrahimovic to make Premier League move|
|Niang delighted with first Serie A goals|
|Wenger backs Campbell to earn spot|
|Much more to come from Firmino - Klopp|
|Kane dreaming of Premier League title win|
|Neymar´s evolution has been startling - Dani Alves|
|Van Gaal explains Lingard, Rojo absences|
|Messi number one regardless of goals - Iniesta|
|Klopp: I´m free to sign Dortmund players|
|Mourinho: Hazard not Chelsea´s number 10|
|Mihajlovic not surprised by Niang form|
|La Liga Review: Barcelona march on; victory for Atletico Madrid|