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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Post Match Manager Comments

Grant: I Did It My Way

Chelsea boss Avram Grant felt that he has vindicated himself as Blues manager after leading the London side to their first ever Champions League final after the 3-2 win over Liverpool on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge.

Grant offered his thoughts on his side's 4-3 aggregate win, and some personal reflections, too.I'm No Special One, But...The Sky interviewer began by putting it to Grant that since he was the first Blues boss to take his side to the Champions League final, he must be, like Jose Mourinho, a special one."There is only one special one," laughed the manager."But I am very, very happy, of course. Every time one can create history it's something special here in England, especially in Chelsea, especially after what we've done this year, and especially against Liverpool."I mastered a fantastic team. Rafa played tactically - you need to be very clever against him as they know how to make things. But we did it, so I'm happy."

Second Half Woes, Lampard's Bittersweet Joy

He was asked if the game was slipping away from his side in the second half."Yes, but you know it's reasonable. Even the second half of yesterday - Man United - when you lead one nil and you know that you need the gain, even then we didn't say to the players 'draw back'."We didn't start well in the second half, but we recovered well and won the game."Lampard? I say all the time: football is not modern football. The way to accept accidents is to be human, and what happened here is human more than football," he said."Frank played very, very well in my opinion - he was one of our key players today. It wasn't easy for him due to you know what, and I respect that he gave everything to the team. I don't know what to say."

Personal Reflections

Grant fell to his knees at the end of the game. What was going through his mind?"I saw it on television, and it's a bit embarassing," he laughed."But today it's Holocaust day, I don't know if you know, in Israel, and I honoured the name of my grandfather, who died in the Holocaust... so it was very emotional."From one side, today, I'm the manager of a team that created history, but on the other side it's a day that's not easy for me, and especially for my father, Mayer, who I love very much - he's 80 years old - so I did what I did."

Road To Moscow

Manchester United will be next up in the final."How confident am I? They're a great team - they have a great manager in Alex [Ferguson - but we have time to prepare," he added."I hope that we can do what we did in the league. We did what we needed to do, and what happened in the English league will maybe happen again."Does he feel the fans have faith in him now after the 'Avram who?' jibes?"We create history and I'm very proud that I did it my way," he said."I don't like to say 'I', but it's time to say thank you to all of this club, from the owner Roman - he created this club - to my staff, who are an excellent staff, my assistant, physio, everybody that's part of the creation here."Why wasn't Roman here? I don't know. You'll need to ask him. Roman's independent, he's a very nice guy, but he has his own thinking."

We Were Very Close - Benitez

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez stood by his pre-match criticism of match-winner Didier Drogba and revealed Fernando Torres was substituted due to a hamstring problem.

Liverpool by and large were only sharp enough in short bursts and it did not prove to be enough up against a fully charged Chelsea, who ran out 3-2 winners after extra time - 4-3 on aggregate - and they will make the trip to Moscow for the Champions League final against Manchester United."I think think we were very close," Benitez told Sky Sports."We were playing well, especially in the second half. With the first goal we were due, I think we had two chances."In extra time we were much better - but after we conceded the second goal, and the third goal, finished the game."

The Spanish tactician revealed that Fernando Torres' controversial substitution made just as Chelsea restored their lead was due to an injury."He had a problem with his hamstring," said Rafa abruptly.Ultimately, though, the Spanish tactician was left ruing what could have been: "There was a massive difference after we scored, we had control of the game. We had two chances at the start of extra time, we were in control of the game, we were creating opportunities."At the end of the day, penalty, the second goal, and the third goal was the end."On the subject of Hyypia's penalty claim, the former Valencia boss did not choose to criticise the referee or make any accusations of conspiracy as he had done in the build-up to the game, and graciously accepted that these things happen.

"The players told me there was a penalty to Hyypia, but this is something you cannot change now," he sighed.When asked whether he regretted his pre-match criticisms of Didier Drogba - the man who ultimately knocked his side out - he was adamant that his criticism had not brought about his own demise and stuck by his words."I don't think so," he replied. "When you play in the semi-final of the Champions League, I don't think you are thinking about any other thing - just to play as well as you can."Co-owner Tom Hicks came down to the dressing room after the defeat and Rafa revealed what was said by the American to the crestfallen players."He said congratulations, because the team was working really hard, and it was a good comeback after conceding the first goal. So yes, positive things," he concluded.

Chet Winter