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'
|Rauball re-elected as German league president|
|Cillessen returns for Ajax despite Barcelona talk|
|Surgery for Pereira after De Rossi horror challenge|
|Hart set for City farewell against Steaua|
|CAF Champions League Review: Wydad draw at ZESCO to earn top spot|
|Retiring Keane in Republic of Ireland squad for final time|
|Sion in talks to sign Liverpool outcast Balotelli, claims club president|
|Athletic´s Laporte not distracted by Barcelona visit|
|Keane announces international retirement|
|Clarke named FA chairman|
|Neuer: Schweinsteiger remains one of world´s best|
|Bielsa would call me before coming to Marseille - Passi|
|Watford bring in Janmaat from Newcastle|
|FIFA opens adjudicatory proceedings against disgraced African football officials|
|European Super League could cause ´war´|
|Sampdoria pounce for Praet|
|Zaza agent confirms Napoli talks but rules out loan move|
|No Grigg in Northern Ireland´s World Cup qualifying squad|
|Cahill reflects on ´amazing´ Melbourne City debut|
|Europa League must take priority, Recoba tells Inter|
|Saint-Etienne swoop for Saivet and Veretout|
|Ronaldo: Pepe was the best player at the Euros, not Griezmann|
|Schweinsteiger: Manchester United my last club in Europe|
|Dante sees Nice as a positive move|
|Pique: Barcelona by far the best in Spain|
|Pique backs Stones for success under Pep|
|Coleman dismisses Premier League talk|
|Spurs want Calhanoglu, claims agent|
|Bony an ´option´ for Bilic|
|Leverkusen cannot challenge Bayern, says Ballack|
|Pallotta blasts ´disgusting´ referee after Roma defeat|
|Badstuber taking his time after injury nightmare|
|Conte: Terry return between him and Allardyce|
|We beat Bayern to Dembele - Watzke|
|Wanderers bring back Bulut|
|Moyes rules out Kone exit|
|CONCACAF Champions League Review: Whitecaps, Pachuca win big|
|Bale: I´ll never forget this year|
|Griezmann: I deserve Best Player in Europe Award|
|No surgery for Ayew as West Ham target December return|
|Villarreal did all they could to make it through - Escriba|
|Spalletti rues lack of Roma discipline|
|Conte: Chelsea must learn to kill matches|
|Watford and West Brom crash out of League Cup|
|My longest 90 minutes as a coach - Rodgers|
|AFC Champions League: Goalless draws leave quarter-finals on a knife edge|
|Klopp hopeful over Can injury|
|Champions League play-offs: Nine-man Roma crash out as Monaco edge Villarreal|
|Henderson hails ´outstanding´ Mane after Burton thrashing|
|Chelsea 3 Bristol Rovers 2: Conte´s side survive scare thanks to Batshuayi double|
|Hapoel Be´er Sheva 2 Celtic 0 (4-5 agg): Visitors survive Israeli scare|
|Burton Albion 0 Liverpool 5: Sturridge at the double in Reds rout|
|Leverkusen sign Austria star Dragovic|
|Sakho in the clear as WADA opt against appeal|
|Enyimba 3 Mamelodi Sundowns 1: Udoh brace secures CAF Champions League win|
|Pulisic and Ramos on target as Dortmund wrap up Bundesliga preparations|
|Calleri hoping for Tevez advice|
|Defour hoping for Belgium recall|
|Alaba warns against complacency as Bayern begin Bundesliga defence|
|Bravo arrives in Manchester ahead of City move|
|Dyche backs Gray after striker´s apology for homophobic tweets|
|Gray charged by FA over homophobic tweets|
|Pique: Olympic gold proves Neymar is one of world´s best|
|Marin makes Olympiacos move|
|Zidane arrival the catalyst for one of my best seasons - Ronaldo|
|Moyes ´worried´ about Mannone elbow injury|
|Sidibe rejected Arsenal over playing-time fears|
|Guardiola: Toure could feature against Steaua|
|Hernandez out for two weeks after falling down stairs|
|Bravo nearing City move, admits Guardiola|
|Ballack impressed by Dortmund signings but still backing Bayern|
|Lucescu questions De Boer tactics|
|Milan reject Chelsea bid for Romagnoli|
|Dortmund know how to treat Gotze - Ballack|
|Shevchenko: Bacca must improve consistency|
|´If you heed 100 idiots you will go crazy´ - Bauza on Messi return|
|Valdano relieved over Messi U-turn|
|Nordfeldt in line for loan move after signing fresh Swans deal|
|Dante joins Nice from Wolfsburg|
|De Boer expects fierce fight for Barca number-one spot|
|Newell´s confident over Messi return|
|Stoke confirm Jones interest|
|MLS ´attractive´ to Rooney - Timbers owner|
|Burke re-signs with West Ham|
|Sassuolo rejected Balotelli - CEO|
|Valencia coach Ayestaran rules out Mustafi sale|
|Allardyce plans Guardiola talks over Hart|
|Cahill warns rivals over City attack|
|Allardyce open to Terry England return|
|Drogba dismisses Villa rumours|
|Tuchel pleased despite Dortmund wastefulness|
|Stam´s Reading sign Manchester United youngster Blackett|
|Champions League place main objective for Rodgers|
|Eintracht Trier 0 Borussia Dortmund 3: Kagawa at the double as Tuchel´s men stroll|
|Escriba urges cool heads in Monaco|
|Cherchesov sets bar high for Russia|
|Tite defends Neymar´s captaincy credentials|
|Ancelotti wowed by fit-again Martinez|
|Spalletti: If Roma players are afraid, I don´t want them|
|Klopp laments Origi´s absent rhythm|
|Barcelona let Neymar stay in Brazil ahead of qualifiers|
|De Jong brothers joins forces at PSV|
|Rudiger returns to training|
|Liverpool transfer talk frustrates Klopp|
|Klopp demands final third improvements|
|Everton loan Galloway to West Brom|
|Manchester United loan Borthwick-Jackson to Wolves|
|Braithwaite to snub Premier League interest to stay at Toulouse|
|Strachan leaves out McCormack, Rhodes|
|Napoli plan to limit media commitments|
|Taarabt eager to make Marseille switch|
|Kruse suffers knee ligament injury|
|Rummenigge expects Ribery to be targeted|
|Delaney: Benteke is not Messi, he needs service|
|Ballack urges patience with Pep over City project|
|James happy at Real Madrid - Zidane|
|Harper backs Phelan for permanent Hull role|
|Flexibility the key for Allardyce|
|Allardyce concerned over Hart situation|
|De Bruyne praises Sterling reaction|
|Cavani vows to improve strike rate|
|Britton signs Swansea extension|
|Higuain motivated by ´fat´ comments|
|Conte perplexed by Costa criticism|
|Drinkwater poised to sign new Leicester contract|
|Bobo completes Sydney move|
|Bilic: You can´t count on Carroll|
|MLS Review: Dempsey´s Sounders sink rivals Timbers|
|Zidane: Important year for Bale|
|Galaxy star Rogers alleges homophobic abuse|
|Vieira: Pogba just needs to be himself|
|Bacca: I made a promise to Milan|
|Angry Handanovic critical of Inter|
|Gameiro: Atletico must win at home|
|Klopp: I´d be an idiot if I made a panic buy|
|Simeone: Draw leaves a bad taste in my mouth|
|Montella: Milan must win back fans|
|Asensio revels in goalscoring LaLiga debut for Madrid|
|Atletico Madrid 1 Alaves 1: Hosts denied in dramatic finale|