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'
|Schweinsteiger set for return to Germany training|
|Pato: I expected more games at Chelsea|
|Real Madrid may go for Pogba - Perez|
|World Cup Qualifying Review: New Zealand march on|
|Carvajal furious at missing Euro 2016|
|Mkhitaryan in no rush to sign Borussia Dortmund renewal|
|Pele to auction off memorabilia|
|Reus left out of Germany´s Euro 2016 squad|
|Blind determined to fight for his place under Mourinho|
|Aulas open to PSG bid for Lacazette|
|Giroud does not understand France booing|
|Four places up for grabs as Del Bosque closes on final Spain squad|
|Messi tax trial begins in Barcelona|
|Hart: England can be surprise package at Euro 2016|
|Ancelotti will not push out Gotze - Khedira|
|Ibrahimovic hints at Malmo return|
|Depay not blaming Van Gaal for his Manchester United struggles|
|Deschamps unhappy with ´unfair´ Giroud boos|
|Juventus adamant no Olympics for Dybala|
|Navas ruled out of Copa America|
|Iniesta: Madrid will be disappointed not to win La Liga|
|Messi on track in recovery|
|Morata: I want to succeed at Madrid, but would consider Premier League|
|Lewandowski headlines expected Poland squad|
|France boss Deschamps ´surprised´ by Cameroon performance|
|Payet: I´m expected to score every free-kick now|
|Bashful Rami admits to mistakes against Cameroon|
|Peseiro to leave Porto|
|France 3 Cameroon 2: Payet stunner snatches victory|
|Laxalt for Rodriguez in Uruguay´s Copa squad|
|Guingamp unveil Kombouare as new head coach|
|Real Madrid confirm Achilles problem for Navas|
|Wilmots´ woes worsen as Belgium lose Lombaerts, Boyata|
|Marotta: Juventus optimistic on Dani Alves deal|
|Berlusconi: I courted Guardiola at Barcelona|
|Berlusconi: Donnarumma not for sale, even for €80m|
|Ginola back at home following heart surgery|
|Departing City boss Pellegrini could quit management|
|Ayestaran prepared to fight to keep Gomes at Valencia|
|Sagna hopes to remain at City under Guardiola|
|France 3-2 Cameroon: Payet nets dramatic late winner for Euro 2016 hosts|
|Roma complete permanent Rudiger deal|
|Senderos left out of final Switzerland squad for Euro 2016|
|AFC Wimbledon 2 Plymouth Argyle 0: Dons reach the third tier|
|Spain v South Korea: Pedro wants goalscoring momentum|
|Reus demands Dortmund transfers|
|Poland v Netherlands: Lewandowski out to make the most of set pieces|
|Low still waiting on Germany fitness news|
|Juanfran promises Champions League success in heartfelt letter to fans|
|Skriniar joins Skrtel, Hamsik in Slovakia squad|
|Scholl: Gotze and Lewandowski dealings strange|
|Terry: Chelsea must learn from mistakes and fight for trophies again|
|Belgium v Finland: Hazard backs squad to cope without Kompany|
|Injury comeback on track, says Germany´s Khedira|
|Victor Sanchez sacked by Depor|
|Rashford signs Manchester United renewal|
|Sturridge resumes England training|
|Pellegrini rues decision to go public with Guardiola appointment|
|Luxembourg v Nigeria: Yusuf set for latest audition|
|Icardi, Perisic not for sale at any price - Inter|
|Carvajal to miss Euro 2016, replaced by Bellerin|
|Terry certain of Mourinho success at Manchester United|
|Pirlo not bitter towards Conte over Euro 2016 snub|
|Dortmund rule out Sokratis exit amid Atletico Madrid links|
|Barcelona revert to tradition with new kit|
|Robben and Ribery in line for Bayern renewals|
|King backs Wales to ´do a Leicester´ at Euro 2016|
|Deschamps: Zidane´s Champions League win is amazing|
|Pulido rescued by Mexican authorities|
|Alaves secure La Liga promotion|
|Gabriel´s childhood dream becomes a reality|
|Mexico v Chile: Vidal set for return|
|Boateng left ´sad´ after politician´s controversial comments|
|Mooy undecided on future|
|Gotze not concentrated on club future|
|Panama 0 Brazil 2: Jonas breaks goalscoring drought, Gabriel nets on debut|
|Postecoglou pleased with additions ahead of Greece clashes|
|Panama 0-2 Brazil: Jonas breaks goalscoring drought, Gabriel nets on debut|
|Ter Stegen laments ´unlucky´ error in Germany defeat|
|Santos hoping for Portugal improvement ahead of Euro 2016|
|Ronaldo dismisses critics after Champions League win|
|Uruguayan side complete Leicester-style championship win|
|New York City 2 Orlando City 2: Molino salvages late point|
|Colombia 3 Haiti 1: Cuadrado helps Pekerman´s side to win|
|Strachan hits out at wayward passing|
|Conte focusing on positives after Scotland victory|
|Colombia 3-1 Haiti: Cuadrado helps Pekerman's side to win|
|Portugal 3 Norway 0: Quaresma, Guerreiro light up Porto|
|Italy 1 Scotland 0: Pelle halts winless run|
|Bellerin in line to replace Carvajal - Del Bosque|
|Nolito dreaming of Euro 2016 after Spain double|
|Olympiacos striker Pulido kidnapped in Mexico - reports|
|Low concerned by Germany´s defensive performance|
|Portugal 3-0 Norway: No Ronaldo, no problem for dominant hosts|
|Deschamps will not consider Sakho recall|
|Germany 1 Slovakia 3: World champions continue to struggle|
|Italy 1-0 Scotland: Pelle strike settles tense friendly|
|Spain 3 Bosnia-Herzegovina 1: Nolito, Pedro on target|
|Martial set to miss France friendly through injury|
|Everton standards not what they should be - Coleman|
|Barnsley 3 Millwall 1: Hammill scorcher helps seal Championship return|
|Spain 3-1 Bosnia: Nolito fires La Roja to success|
|Emerson warns Morata against Real Madrid return|
|Germany 1-3 Slovakia: Hosts shocked in rain-affected friendly|
|Tiago has ´no doubt´ over Simeone´s Atletico future|
|Ben Arfa wants to match Messi, Ronaldo|
|Portugal v Norway Preview: Quaresma challenges hosts to prove Euro 2016 ambition|
|Republic of Ireland v Belarus: Coleman inspired by Leicester heroics|
|Bayern defend Boateng after politician´s insult|
|Too risky for England to start Stones at Euro 2016 - Campbell|
|Republic of Ireland v Belarus: Coleman inspired by Leicester heroics|
|Champions League Final: Could the Madrid derby rival El Clasico?|
|Mourinho gives Manchester United the X Factor they need, says Lampard|
|World Cup Qualifying Review: Tahiti thrash Samoa|
|Ballack: Schweinsteiger indispensable for Germany|
|Dortmund dismiss Aubameyang exit talk|
|Mourinho is really irritating, says Keane|
|Isco: I´ll stay if Real Madrid want me|
|Zieler close to Leicester move as Hannover confirm medical|
|Messi on the mend, say Argentina|
|´Deschamps should be flattered - Ryan Gosling is a Mormon´ – Cantona explains France boss criticism|
|Xhaka proud to complete ´dream´ Arsenal move|
|Conte concerned by De Rossi injury|
|Pepe hails Zidane influence after ´tough six months´ under Benitez|
|Hull City´s top-flight return comes at a cost for fans|
|Koeman: United don´t deserve FA Cup trophy after sacking Van Gaal|
|Ramos hails Zidane for turning Madrid around|
|Nobody expected this trophy – Arbeloa|
|MLS Review: Drogba scores late, Wright-Phillips nets treble|
|Benzema wants Madrid stay after Champions League win|
|Koke: I think Simeone will stay at Atletico|
|United States 4 Bolivia 0: Zardes scores brace as Pulisic opens account|
|Champions League final: A bomb scare, Clarence Seedorf and Ronaldo strips off again|
|United States 4-0 Bolivia: Zardes scores brace as Pulisic opens account|
|Saul: Atletico don´t deserve second heartbreak|
|Real Madrid players revel in Champions League success|
|Davies: Tottenham joked Pochettino was joining United|
|Gabi: I am convinced Atletico will win the Champions League|
|Mexico 1 Paraguay 0: Guardado extends unbeaten streak|
|Simeone to ´think about´ Atletico future|
|Zidane: I dreamed this would happen after getting Real Madrid job|
|Ronaldo ´had a vision´ he would score San Siro winner|
|James wants Real Madrid stay despite Champions League final snub|
|Real Madrid success an amazing journey, says Bale|
|Simeone rues Atletico ´failure´|
|Sterling tips Rashford for long England career|
|Navas hails Champions League triumph as ´dream come true´|
|Champions League trophy belongs to Real Madrid - Modric|
|Perez hails Zidane after dramatic Champions League win|
|Bale the main man for Madrid, and the rest of the Champions League final player ratings|
|Ronaldo: Real Madrid experience made the difference|
|Ronaldo gamble eventually pays off for Madrid|
|Griezmann´s penalty miss & Ronaldo´s nerves of steel - The key moments that decided the Champions Le|