LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea manager Avram Grant said on Wednesday he felt very emotional after taking his side to the Champions League final on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“It was not an easy day for me,” said the Israeli manager, whose father survived the Holocaust but had to bury his own parents and sister “with his own hands”.
“I‘m proud with what we achieved on this day...it was an emotional day,” said Grant, whose Chelsea team will meet Manchester United in the final next month in Moscow.
Chelsea beat Liverpool 3-2 for an aggregate 4-3 victory to reach the Champions League final for the first time and Grant fell to his knees apparently in prayer after the final whistle.
“My father is a survivor of the Holocaust,” he said. “It puts it in some perspective. It wasn’t easy but now it’s a happy day,” Grant, who plans to visit Auschwitz on Thursday added.
He also praised the courage of midfielder Frank Lampard, who returned to play after his mother died last week and wept after scoring from the penalty spot for Chelsea’s second goal.
“He is a brave man. He was very close to his mother. It was his decision to return,” Grant said, adding he had selected the England midfielder to start after watching him train on Tuesday.
The dour Israeli, who has struggled for popularity with fans after taking over from charismatic predecessor Jose Mourinho last September, said it meant a great deal to him to “make history” with Chelsea in his first year in charge.
“I needed to prove more than others that my team knew how to play football, knew how to overcome difficulties and knew how to create history,” he said. “It will be a great final -- two English teams in Moscow.”
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said his side lost their momentum in the first leg at Anfield when they conceded a John Arne Riise own goal in the dying moments for a 1-1 draw.
“We deserved more from the tie, especially from the first leg,” the Spaniard, who took Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2005 and to the final last year, said.
He added magnanimously that two “great teams” would play in the final.
“Chelsea are a team with quality ... I felt in extra time we were strong enough mentally and physically but their second goal made the difference and their third killed it off,” he said.
Editing by Ken Ferris