Two goals in as many minutes from Olivier Giroud helped FA Cup holders Arsenal progress to this season’s Sixth Round at the expense of Middlesbrough.
The Frenchman was on-hand to convert Kieran Gibbs’s low cross after 27 minutes – and he doubled the lead before the half-hour mark, neatly turning home an Alexis Sanchez corner at the near post.
Championship leaders Middlesbrough stunned Manchester City in Round Four but they were no match for the Gunners at the Emirates.
Arsenal 2-0 Middlesbrough
The FA Cup
Fifth Round Proper
Sunday 15 February
Winners receive £180,000 from FA Prize Fund
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The visitors held firm for 30 minutes but Arsene Wenger’s men dominated the play from first to last and are in the hat for Monday’s quarter-final draw.
Arsenal assumed control immediately and Santi Cazorla, the Gunners’ captain for the day, called Tomas Mejias into action early on, as the former Real Madrid keeper was required to turn his compatriot’s 20-yard free-kick behind for a corner.
Giroud capitalised after Boro conceded possession in their own half, but hit his shot straight down the centre. He was to be more accurate with his next effort.
Some typically neat build-up play from Arsenal was rewarded when Cazorla played in Gibbs down the left and the England full-back’s low centre was prodded home by Giroud.
Aitor Karanka’s side have the meanest defence in the Championship, having conceded just 20 goals in 30 matches, but they switched off at an Arsenal corner and were duly punished.
Some quick-thinking by Giroud allowed him to get a run on George Friend and he nipped ahead of Kike at the near post to sweep in a sumptuous second. It was no more than Arsenal deserved for their first-half dominance.
Boro’s only effort of note before the break was Albert Adomah’s strike from the edge of the box which was comfortably saved by Wojciech Szczesny on his first start since Arsenal’s Fourth Round win in Brighton.
The hosts were at it again in the second half – and Mejias excelled himself to deny them a third goal.
The 26-year-old parried away Mesut Ozil’s drive and then tipped Gibbs’s angled shot over the bar before his best save of the game.
Cazorla floated a free-kick into the box which Sanchez headed goalwards amid a crowd of bodies, but Mejias got down quickly to turn the ball away for a corner.
Arsenal could, and probably should, have added a third when they launched a counter-attack following a Boro corner. However, Cazorla hit substitute Tomas Rosicky’s pull-back over the top from 18 yards.
Theo Walcott, on for Danny Welbeck, had a shot headed off the line by Kenneth Omeruo and another one tipped away by Mejias, and Ozil was again denied by the Boro stopper as the home side were unable to find a third goal to put a gloss on a powerful display.
It mattered not, however, as the tie had long been won and the holders await the Sixth Round draw with interest.
Arsenal (4-3-3): 1 Wojciech Szczesny, 21 Calum Chambers, 5 Gabriel, 6 Laurent Koscielny, 3 Kieran Gibbs; 20 Mathieu Flamini, Santi Cazorla (C), Mesut Ozil; 17 Alexis Sanchez, 12 Olivier Giroud, 23 Danny Welbeck.
Substitutes: 7 Tomas Rosicky for Sanchez 71, 14 Theo Walcott for Welbeck 71, 38 Chuba Akpom for Giroud 82
Substitutes not used: 4 Per Mertesacker, 18 Nacho Monreal, 26 Emiliano Martinez, 34 Francis Coquelin.
Manager: Arsene Wenger
Goals: Giroud 27, 29
Bookings: Gabriel 55
Middlesbrough (4-4-1-1): 40 Tomas Mejias,5 Ryan Fredericks, 22 Kenneth Omeruo, 6 Ben Gibson, 3 George Friend; 23 Patrick Bamford, 8 Adam Clayton, 7 Grant Leadbitter (C), 27 Albert Adomah; 10 Lee Tomlin; 9 Kike.
Substitutes: 21 Jelle Vossen for Tomlin 54, 20 Adam Reach for Bamford 54
Substitutes not used: 12 Connor Ripley, 17 James Husband, 18 Dean Whitehead, 24 Emilio Nsue, 39 Jonathan Woodgate.
Manager: Aitor Karanka
Bookings: Vossen 85
Referee: Mike Dean
Highlights of the game from the Emirates Stadium