Carney Chukwuemeka defends ‘big brother’ Raheem Sterling as Chelsea star makes Cole Palmer point

By Staff

Young Chelsea star Carney Chukwuemeka has praised Raheem Sterling, calling him his “big brother”, despite the mixed reactions Sterling received during the Blues’ FA Cup victory over Leicester.

Sterling left the pitch late in the game to a mix of cheers and boos, with some fans near the Stamford Bridge dugout urging manager Mauricio Pochettino to substitute him. Earlier in the match, he had missed two great opportunities to help wrap up the game, which Chelsea eventually won 4-2 thanks to last-minute goals from substitutes Chukwuemeka and Noni Madueke.

Sterling faced criticism from some home supporters for taking the ball from regular penalty taker Cole Palmer after winning a first-half penalty, which was then saved by Leicester goalkeeper Jakub Stolarczyk. There was more frustration when he sent a free-kick from 20 yards out high into the stand behind the goal, with Pochettino loudly booed as he chose to substitute Mykhailo Mudryk who had played well instead of Sterling in the 78th minute.

The 29-year-old Englishman was finally substituted four minutes before the end of the match. Chukwuemeka, who scored his first goal at Stamford Bridge to make the score 3-2 two minutes into extra time, strongly defended Sterling, saying he is a key influence among Chelsea’s young players.

“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).

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“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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