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'
|Martial never the same again - Mangala|
|Copa del Rey Review: Racing fall at the first|
|Shelvey dismisses talk of England snub|
|Galatasaray unable to play Grosskreutz|
|Faroe Islands v Northern Ireland: O´Neill preaches patience ahead of Euro double-header|
|Levy slams ´wholly inappropriate´ West Brom after Berahino chase|
|Panama v Uruguay: Visitors without Suarez and Cavani|
|Captaincy won´t change me - Robben|
|Liverpool sign Brazilian youngster Allan|
|PFA expects swift Berahino resolution|
|Argentina v Bolivia: Mascherano backs ´very special´ Messi|
|´I do not know if I´m worth €80million´ - Martial shocked at price-tag|
|Afellay suspension reduced|
|Noble red card rescinded|
|Portugal v France: Deschamps aiming to correct mistakes|
|Bahebeck given the all clear|
|Germany v Poland: Muller out to settle the score|
|Gibraltar v Republic of Ireland: Keane counting on McCarthy and Walters|
|Georgia v Scotland: Tbilisi trip has must-win feel for Robertson|
|Juve still the team to beat - Hernanes|
|De Gea will remain professional, says team-mate Mata|
|Berahino given extra time off following strike tweet|
|´No excuses´ as Costa seeks to kick-start season|
|I´m not like Messi or Ronaldo – Hazard|
|United States v Peru: Klinsmann out to ´prove a point´|
|Martinez unsure when Cleverley will return|
|France set for Russia friendly ahead of Euros|
|Former Manchester United forward Berbatov joins PAOK|
|De Gea must play to earn Euro 2016 spot – Del Bosque|
|Cahill thrilled to lead Socceroos|
|Wijnaldum urges patience with new-look Newcastle|
|Reid praises Stones´ professionalism|
|Mexico v Trinidad and Tobago: Islanders hoping to build on Gold Cup display|
|Choosing Brazil over Spain was easiest decision, says Rafinha|
|Galliani hails ´changed´ Balotelli|
|OFC World Cup Qualifying Review: American Samoa notch second competitive win|
|Canada v Belize: Hosts look to stay calm|
|Carragher surprised by ´big´ Martial price|
|No pressure on Rodgers - Rush|
|No Benzema, no Cavani - Arsenal ´can´t compete´ says Sol Campbell|
|FFA muzzle Postecoglou after pay dispute criticism|
|Celtic complete Simunovic signing|
|Joaquin: I´m as happy as a little boy|
|Navas given time off by Costa Rica|
|Martial unfazed by prospect of United pressure|
|Ramos urges De Gea to overcome transfer woe|
|Premier League spending hits £1bn in 2015|
|Italy v Malta: Conte calls for focus|
|De Laurentiis reveals failed Juve bid for Hamsik|
|Schweinsteiger: Manchester not as bad as everybody thinks|
|Galatasaray finalise Grosskreutz deal|
|Ilori agrees season-long loan with Villa|
|Wolfsburg want to ´annoy´ Bayern - Dante|
|Norwich bring in Jarvis on loan|
|Everton sign Lennon on permanent deal|
|United put blame back on Real Madrid over De Gea|
|Premier League Deadline Day: Berahino on strike, United make Martial number nine|
|Peace: West Brom must repair damage caused by Tottenham´s Berahino pursuit|
|Dyer secures loan switch to Leicester|
|Walters mocks deadline-day culture|
|Derby complete Johnson deal|
|Hector signed by Chelsea and loaned back to Reading|
|Watford secure Ibarbo loan|
|United´s Martial offer too good to reject - Monaco chief|
|No regrets over failed Juve move - Draxler|
|Guedioura returns to Watford|
|Berahino tweet casts doubt on West Brom future|
|Yedlin loaned to Sunderland|
|United complete Martial swoop|
|Strootman undergoes surgery again|
|FIFA set to clarify proposed Grosskreutz deal|
|Watford bolster strikeforce with Oulare|
|Belgium v Bosnia-Herzegovina: Time running out for visitors|
|Antonio makes West Ham move|
|I want to feel important at Leverkusen - Hernandez|
|Villa seal deadline-day swoop for Lescott|
|Austin to stay at QPR|
|Everton´s Gibson given driving ban|
|David de Gea: Timeline of Manchester United goalkeeper´s failed Real Madrid move|
|Southampton complete Van Dijk swoop|
|Bournemouth complete Murray deal|
|Real take aim at United over failed De Gea move|
|Premier League Deadline Day: West Ham bring in three, De Gea set for United stay|
|Reports: Real Madrid will not appeal De Gea transfer collapse|
|FIFA quiet on ´confidential´ De Gea paperwork|
|Chelsea sign Nantes defender Djilobodji|
|West Ham land Jelavic|
|Anthony who? Rooney had to ask who Martial was, says Schneiderlin|
|Moses joins West Ham on loan|
|Netherlands v Iceland: Blind era begins in Amsterdam|
|Deportivo snap up Gutierrez|
|Newcastle´s Kemen returns to France|
|Everton wrap up Funes Mori deal|
|Cyprus v Wales: Difficult to overestimate Bale contribution, says Davies|
|Blaszczykowski ´never considered´ Schalke move|
|Di Maria opens up about Van Gaal ´rows´|
|West Ham seal Song loan|
|Australia v Bangladesh: Luongo excited by Rogic partnership|
|Maturity, fitness vital for Shelvey|
|South Korea v Laos: Hwaseong hosts hunting goals|
|Japan v Cambodia: Hosts out to arrest four-match slump|
|Troisi joins Saudi giants Al-Ittihad|
|Casemiro lauds Benitez after re-signing|
|Rojo wants United stay|
|Milan tried for Witsel - Galliani|
|Conte eyes two Italy wins|
|Ligue 1 Deadline Day: Marseille sign three amid Martial saga|
|La Liga Deadline Day: Uncertainty over De Gea future, Joaquin back at Betis|
|Serie A Deadline Day: Juve and Inter busy as window closes|
|Layun swaps Watford for Porto|
|Joaquin makes Betis return alongside Van Wolfswinkel|
|Coventry City 2 Southend United 2: Ricketts salvages point for hosts|
|Real face anxious wait over De Gea as window shuts|
|Milan loan Mastour to Malaga|