Chelsea survive Leicester scare to reach FA Cup semi-finals

AFP , Sunday 17 Mar 2024

Carney Chukwuemeka rescued Chelsea with a stoppage-time strike that inspired a 4-2 win over 10-man Leicester in an FA Cup quarter-final thriller on Sunday.

Chelsea s
Chelsea s English midfielder #17 Carney Chukwuemeka (L) celebrates after scoring their third goal during the English FA Cup Quarter Final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in London. Photo: AFP


Mauricio Pochettino's side were fortunate to survive a stirring fightback from Championship promotion chasers Leicester amid a mutinous atmosphere at Stamford Bridge.

Chukwuemeka netted in the closing minutes to save Chelsea from the embarrassment of being forced into extra-time.

Noni Madueke added Chelsea's fourth to ensure the angry fans who booed Pochettino in the second half were silenced, at least for now.

For the sixth time in the last eight years, the Blues have advanced to the last four in the FA Cup.

But this was hardly a triumphant afternoon for Blues boss Pochettino, whose inconsistent team blew the two-goal half-time lead given to them by Marc Cucurella and Cole Palmer.

In between those strikes, Raheem Sterling missed a penalty and Axel Disasi gave Leicester hope with a farcical own goal early in the second half.

When Stephy Mavididi scored an eye-catching equaliser, Chelsea were in turmoil once again as the hapless Sterling earned the wrath of the home support.

But Leicester's Callum Doyle was sent off for a professional foul on Nicolas Jackson, setting the stage for the Blues' late revival.

Chelsea have failed to win a single domestic trophy since their most recent FA Cup triumph six years ago.

The west Londoners are languishing in 11th place in the Premier League and former Tottenham and Southampton boss Pochettino is yet to win silverware in England.

Under mounting pressure amid a troubled first season in charge, Pochettino revealed this week that some of Chelsea's young players endured a sleepless night before their League Cup final defeat against Liverpool in February.

Making amends by winning the FA Cup would buy Pochettino some much-needed breathing space.

Chelsea jeers

Chelsea had taken the lead in the 13th minute when Nicolas Jackson accelerated past Jannik Vestergaard into the Leicester area before whipping over a low cross that Cucurella converted from close-range.

It was the Spanish defender's first goal since joining Chelsea from Brighton in August 2022.

In the 25th minute, Cole Palmer surged down the right flank and crossed to the edge of area, where Sterling was clattered by Abdul Fatawu as he prepared to shoot.

Palmer has been taking Chelsea's penalties this season and Sterling's decision to grab the ball proved misguided.

A frustrating season for the 29-year-old, who was left out of the England squad again this week, showed no signs of abating as he fluffed his lines with a weak penalty that was easily saved by Jakub Stolarczyk.

To his credit, Sterling didn't hide and he set up Palmer's goal on the stroke of half-time.

Sterling raced into the area and delivered a low cross that Palmer deftly slotted home from close-range.

Disasi gave Leicester a lifeline in the 51st minute as the centre-back panicked under pressure from Daka and hacked a misjudged backpass past stunned keeper Robert Sanchez into his own net from 30 yards.

Weaving into the Chelsea area as the anxious Blues defence backed off, Mavididi curled a blistering finish into the top corner in the 62nd minute.

Chelsea thought they had been given a penalty in the 73rd minute when Doyle tripped Jackson.

VAR ruled the offense was just outside the area, but that didn't save Doyle from a red card.

Sterling was booed by Chelsea fans after a woeful free-kick, while Pochettino also copped it with chants of "you don't know what you're doing" when he substituted Mudryk.

Sterling was jeered again when he was taken off, so it was no surprise to see Pochettino punching the air in relief in stoppage-time.

Chukwuemeka produced a cool finish after Palmer's sublime back-heel teed up the young midfielder.

Madueke put a flattering gloss on the scoreline when his deflected strike dipped under the bar in the final seconds.

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