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'
|Arrasate talks up Champions League impact|
|Spalletti expects Vienna test|
|Juventus ´not interested´ in Kolarov|
|Fonseca calls for Porto balance|
|Dalglish backs Suarez to shine on world stage|
|Brunt: West Brom are no Mickey Mouse club|
|Klopp unsure over Marseille sacking effect|
|Howson in ´best form´|
|Ronaldo grounded despite record haul|
|Liverpool´s Kelly fighting fit|
|Guardiola calm over Champions League defeat|
|Bony boost for Swansea|
|A-League Preview: Mariners eye perfect 10 against Reds|
|Lucescu laments Donetsk performance|
|Michel: Olympiacos deserved knockout-stage spot|
|Pellegrini displays Munich confusion|
|Delaney credits Copenhagen second-half display|
|Sociedad president learns lessons from exit|
|Jesus believes Benfica deserved to progress|
|Vrba delighted with ´amazing´ Moscow win|
|Hyypia hails Leverkusen belief|
|Second-half show disappoints Blanc|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Maribor v Wigan Athletic|
|Moyes eyes UEFA Champions League glory|
|Lahm takes positive from City loss|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: St Gallen v Swansea|
|Van den Brom slams ´outrageous´ referee|
|Ancelotti pinpoints potential Manchester City threat|
|Juventus and Galatasaray to finish on Wednesday|
|Slutsky: Dzagoev dismissal changed the game|
|UEFA Champions League: Viktoria Plzen 2 CSKA Moscow 1|
|UEFA Champions League: Real Sociedad 0 Bayer Leverkusen 1|
|UEFA Champions League: Olympiacos 3 Anderlecht 1|
|UEFA Champions League: Benfica 2 Paris Saint-Germain 1|
|UEFA Champions League: Bayern Munich 2 Manchester City 3|
|UEFA Champions League: Manchester United 1 Shakhtar Donetsk 0|
|UEFA Champions League: Copenhagen 0 Real Madrid 2|
|Galatasaray-Juventus fixture abandoned|
|Lennon: Celtic supporters best in the world|
|De Boer: No favourite between Milan and Ajax|
|Evergrande face Jeonbuk in AFC Champions League draw|
|Allegri confident ahead of Ajax test|
|Klopp wary over Sahin return|
|Wenger ready for Champions League ´decider´|
|Keller urges Schalke caution|
|Blackstock´s season ended by knee injury|
|Busquets calls for Barca focus|
|Anigo hopeful ahead of Dortmund clash|
|Laudrup hints at keeper signing|
|Strootman staying with Roma|
|Petrov impressed with Villa midfielder Westwood|
|Deulofeu in no hurry over future|
|Allen not haunted by derby miss|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Tottenham v Anzhi Makhachkala|
|Giroud comfortable with rotation policy|
|Mourinho expects Cole to sign new deal|
|Horne plays down spot-fixing issue|
|Mourinho not expecting Champions League glory|
|Belief strong with Napoli - Benitez|
|Martino challenges Neymar|
|Williamson loving life at Newcastle|
|Barcelona chief: No reason to extend Messi deal|
|Kucka faces injury lay-off|
|Rafael expects United response|
|Ronaldo shrugs off Ballon d´Or talk|
|Larsson not seeking contract talks|
|Cannavaro backed by Materazzi|
|Guardiola rules out Neuer exit|
|Muntari keen to make Ajax ´suffer´|
|Brentford turn to Warburton|
|Benayoun seals QPR switch|
|Davies: Swansea got lucky|
|Bruce hopes for Graham run after breaking drought|
|Sevilla president Del Nido steps down|
|CSKA aim to topple Plzen|
|Costa Rica Primera Division Wrap: Herediano, Alajuelense reach final|
|Solbakken ready for Real challenge|
|Lucescu wary of wounded United|
|Argentina Primera Division Wrap: Belgrano finish with a win|
|Marseille to face Reims in Coupe de France|
|Marseille boss Anigo remains upbeat|
|We did not deserve to win, says Laudrup|
|Bury bring in Flitcroft|
|Primeira Liga: Vitoria Setubal 1 Academica 0|
|Bruce critcises Foy over ´clear-cut penalty´|
|Hyypia calls for more of the same|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Marseille v Borussia Dortmund|
|Premier League: Swansea City 1 Hull City 1|
|Turkish Super Lig Wrap: Fenerbahce win again as Kasimpasa, Besiktas falter|
|Michel: Olympiacos deserve to qualify|
|Blanc ready for ´great challenge´ against Benfica|
|Ancelotti plays down talk of Di Maria spat|
|Bayern game is important, insists Pellegrini|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Austria Vienna v Zenit St Petersburg|
|Juve will not be affected by Pirlo absence, says Conte|
|Dalman pledges Mackay support|
|Mancini expects Sneijder to play|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Schalke v Basel|
|Celtic ban 128 fans after crowd trouble|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Atletico Madrid v Porto|
|Moyes takes responsibility for United setbacks|
|Clarke vows to improve West Brom fortunes|
|Jesus calls for Benfica focus|
|Song settled at Barcelona|
|Howard: Everton more confident than ever|
|Guardiola aiming for maximum points|
|Jarvis calls for fighting spirit at West Ham|
|Stekelenburg targets Everton scalp|
|Messi, Ronaldo, Ribery on Ballon d´Or shortlist|
|Van der Vaart set for return|
|Expert urges ´careful´ approach over match-fixing|
|Ronaldo returns to Real Madrid squad|
|Pardew warns of ´dangerous´ Newcastle|
|Barker appointed Portsmouth boss|
|Assaidi remains hopeful of Liverpool future|
|Bayern will need to be at their best, says Kroos|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Barcelona v Celtic|
|Tricky run does not concern Arsenal, Mertesacker insists|
|Blackburn striker Campbell arrested in match-fixing probe|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Milan v Ajax|
|Cahill: Chelsea have to stop mistakes|
|Paranaense slam ´barbaric events´ in Vasco clash|
|Rodgers endorses Coutinho´s World Cup chances|
|Liga MX Wrap: Leon, America into final|
|Ranieri delighted with narrow win|
|Colombia Primera A Wrap: Atletico Nacional win again|
|Uruguay Primera Division Wrap: Tight title race continues|
|Liga del Futbol Profesional Boliviano Wrap: Bolivar stay top|
|Chile Primera Division Wrap: Universidad Catolica claim top spot|
|Ecuador Primera A Wrap: Champions Emelec finish with a win|
|Copa del Rey Wrap: Osasuna, Espanyol claim comeback draws|
|Barkley can be England´s ´diamond´, says Martinez|
|Ligue 1 Wrap: Monaco into second with win, Lille beaten|
|Mazzarri adamant Inter were denied ´clear´ penalty|