MIDDLESBROUGH could not repeat their FA Cup heroics against Arsenal this afternoon as they were comprehensively outplayed and beaten 2-0.
Boro made the journey to the capital hoping to replicate at least some of the performance against Manchester City in the fourth round.
But they were undone by the mesmerising, terrific tandem of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez with Olivier Giroud scoring twice in as many minutes in the first-half to see the cup holders advance to the quarter-finals.
The outcome was deserving, the scoreline less so. In truth, it could have been more. Boro struggled to retain possession and their defence was a pale of its usual self, unlocked frequently by the majesties of the Premier League giants.
Aitor Karanka made eight changes from the side who beat Blackpool 2-1 in midweek, cup goalkeeper Tomas Mejias selected between the sticks.
Elsewhere, Boro returned to four at the back, Kenneth Omeruo and Ben Gibson tasked with taming Danny Welbeck, Ozil, Sanchez and Giroud.
Patrick Bamford, Lee Tomlin and Kike were Boro’s attacking triumvirate, the latter preferred to Jelle Vossen in the only two changes to the side that beat Man City 2-0.
Mejias was called into action in the fourth minute, diving low to his left to keep out a Santi Cazorla free-kick.
Sanchez appealed for a penalty in the 14th minute when he received a back-heeled return from Danny Welbeck, but Omeruo had timed his tackle to perfection.
A minute later and Mejias almost allowed Giroud to open the scoring when he parried away the Frenchman’s curling but untroubled shot instead of collecting.
Cazorla danced about on the periphery of the box, bounced a one-two off Danny Welbeck and threaded the ball into the path of Kieran Gibbs whose run had left him free on the left of the box.
The full-back cut the ball inside to the awaiting Olivier Giroud who neatly tucked the ball beyond Tomas Mejias in the 27th minute.
A minute later and it was 2-0. Giroud beating Friend and Kike from a cleverly worked Sanchez corner to flick the ball for a second.
In the 39th minute Albert Adomah forced Wojciech Szczesny into work for the first time, the Ghanaian running and shooting from just outside the box which demanded the Polish stopper to dive to his right.
Mathieu Flamini’s shot was repelled off the back of Ben Gibson but the ball fell to Welbeck whose footwork brought the ball away from Friend but his shot hit the wrong side of the netting as Boro went into the break trailing by two goals.
Arsenal’s stranglehold of the game did not loosen in the second-half.
Chambers made the most of Friend being drawn out of the defence to attack, the Arsenal full-back teeing up Welbeck who trickled his way into the area and squared it across the goal-line waiting for that elusive touch that never arrived.
Ozil took a pass from Cazorla, touched it to bring the ball away from Omeruo and the shot was rebounded by Mejias.
Within seconds of Adam Reach’s arrival for Patrick Bamford Boro created. Sanchez gifted the ball to Reach who ran for 30 yards before being squarely upended by Gabriel. Leadbitter took the resulting free-kick but it hit the Arsenal wall.
Sanchez worked the ball well from the left and passed into Giroud’s feet who cushioned the ball into Gibbs’ trail with the left-back hitting across goal and needing a save from Mejias.
The Chilean wizard had half of the Emirates on their feet soon after when he headed at goal with Mejias just managing to hold on tight.
Ryan Fredericks denied Sanchez a sumptuous finale to another flowing Gunners move, the Tottenham loanee tackling well to deny the ex-Barcelona man a shot after he linked up with Ozil again.
From a rare and unfruitful Boro corner, Arsenal countered. Giroud attacked, withheld his run, passed to Rosicky on his outside right who teed up Cazorla only for the Spaniard to blaze over.
Mejias brought the ghosts from past alive again, spilling sub Theo Walcott’s shot for a corner as the game neared its conclusion.
With a minute on the clock remaining Adomah switched the ball between his feet and fired with his left just wide of Szczesny’s left post. In added-on time Kike headed against the post from a Fredericks centre.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs; Flamini, Cazorla, Welbeck (Walcott, 72), Ozil, Sanchez (Rosicky, 72), Giroud (Akpon, 83).
Subs not used: Martinez, Mertesacker, Monreal, Coquelin
Boro: (4-2-3-1) Mejias, Fredericks, Omeruo, Gibson, Friend; Adomah, Leadbitter, Clayton, Tomlin (Vossen, 54), Bamford (Reach, 54); Kike.
Subs not used: Ripley, Nsue, Husband, Whitehead, Woodgate.