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Carney Chukwuemeka defends Raheem Sterling after boos from Chelsea fans

Carney Chukwuemeka hailed "big brother" Raheem Sterling after the England forward had a disappointing afternoon during Chelsea's FA Cup win over Leicester.

Sterling left the field late in the second half to a smattering of applause but also audible boos, with fans near the Stamford Bridge dugout having implored manager Mauricio Pochettino to substitute him.

Earlier he had missed two golden chances to help wrap up the game, which Chelsea eventually won 4-2 with stoppage-time goals from substitutes Chukwuemeka and Noni Madueke.

He received scorn from sections of the home support for taking the ball out of the hands of regular penalty taker Cole Palmer after winning a first-half spot-kick, which he subsequently saw saved by Leicester goalkeeper Jakub Stolarczyk.

And there was further ire when he whacked a free-kick from 20 yards high into the stand behind the goal, with Pochettino loudly jeered as he opted to withdraw Mykhailo Mudryk – who had a fine game – rather than Sterling in the 78th minute.

The 29-year-old England international was eventually replaced four minutes from the end.

Match-winner Chukwuemeka, who netted his first Stamford Bridge goal to make it 3-2 two minutes into added time, made a robust defence of Sterling, citing him as a key influence amongst Chelsea's young squad.

"Raheem is an experienced player, he's had an amazing career," he said. "We know what a great footballer he is. He's contributed to goals, assists, won so many penalties for the team this season.

"It happens. He's human. Players miss chances, have an off day. We stay behind him. He still got an assist for Cole's goal (which put Chelsea 2-0 up).

"For us youngsters, especially me, Noni and Cole, he's helped us a lot since we came. He's always on us, showing us what we can do better, what we can improve on, outside of football as well as in.

"He's a big part. He's like my big brother."

It was just Chukwuemeka's second goal for Chelsea since joining from Aston Villa in August 2022.

The 20-year-old underwent surgery on a knee injury in August, returning to action only in February.

His goal to effectively settle the tie against Leicester came after a sublime flick to set him up by Palmer, who was excellent again.

"(Palmer) makes a massive difference," said Chukwuemeka. "Even in training we're always finding each other, we're linking up well. As soon as I played it to him, I knew I was getting it back.

"He even told me before he game that when I come on he's going to assist me. We have that combination together which is good. Hopefully we can build on it.

"I never lost faith and belief in myself. Even when I got injured, I just thought it was a bump in the road, a trial that I need to overcome.

"I know what I can do and hopefully I can keep showing everyone."

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