IN the end, it was asking too much. Middlesbrough’s recent cup record features wins at Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium, but a maiden success at the gleaming new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium proved a bridge too far. In hindsight, the Teessiders’ best chance of pulling off another cup shock disappeared when Lucas Moura headed home at the Riverside.

Last night’s hopes of a replay victory were badly dented by the second-minute error from Tomas Mejias that handed Giovani Lo Celso an opener on a plate, and fatally scuppered by the 16th-minute strike from Erik Lamela that doubled Spurs’ advantage. George Saville’s strike seven minutes from time hinted at a grandstand finish, but was ultimately too little, too late.

That said, however, Jose Mourinho’s side were threatening to run riot after scoring their second goal, so it was to Middlesbrough’s credit that their opponents’ scoring finished at two. Tottenham’s players took their foot off the gas in the second half, but Boro still had to display the kind of spirit and resolve that has become their hallmark under Jonathan Woodgate in the last couple of months in order to avoid an embarrassment. That they were the better side for much of the second half augurs well for their prospects in the league in the remainder of the season.

Attention now switches to Fulham on Friday night, a game that should be the easier half of Boro’s London double-header. Spurs might have been missing Harry Kane, but their world-class attacking players rose to the occasion when required. The likes of Djed Spence, Marvin Johnson and Ben Liddle were just about able to live with them though, something that says much for the quality of talent on Boro’s books.

Regardless of the result, this was a night Liddle will never forget. The 21-year-old, who is the son of Boro academy boss and former Darlington manager Craig, made his first senior start on one of the grandest stages in the English game.

Prior to last night, the Durham-born youngster’s only first-team involvement had come in the final 20 minutes of December’s thrashing at Leeds United, but having scored two goals for the Under-23s last week, he was handed an opportunity to go toe-to-toe with England duo Eric Dier and Harry Winks.

He was not found wanting before he was replaced shortly before the hour mark, working industriously on the right of Boro’s midfield three. He was not really able to influence the game in an attacking sense, but there was no disgrace in that given the quality of players he was up against. Things will be significantly less daunting if he is handed another chance in the Championship in the not-too-distant future.

His selection was further evidence of Woodgate’s deep-rooted faith in Boro’s Rockliffe Park production line, with Liddle becoming the fifth academy product to have made a senior debut this season. Having pledged to put his faith in youth when he was first appointed, Woodgate has more than lived up to his promise.

Liddle was one of two senior debutants in the Boro line-up, with Lukas Nmecha also making his first start for the club following his loan move from Manchester City, and having named another youthful line-up, Woodgate would have been hoping for a start that enabled his players to ease themselves into the game.

Instead, the visitors shot themselves in the foot to concede within the opening two minutes and fell further behind as their defence was found wanting again shortly after the quarter-hour mark.

Spurs’ opener was the result of a dreadful mistake from Mejias, whose heroics to secure a draw on Teesside were quickly forgotten as he attempted to play a wholly misguided pass to Marvin Johnson.

The ball was never going to get to its intended target, and after nipping in to secure possession, Lo Celso was left with the simple task of rolling a side-footed finish into the bottom left-hand corner.

Mejias was prone to a more-than-occasional error during his first spell on Teesside, and with Boro’s goalkeeping situation currently in a state of flux, this was not a night that bolstered confidence in the Spaniard. Darren Randolph, with his proposed move to West Ham seemingly on ice, could yet be an important asset.

With their game plan shot to pieces, Boro almost found a route back into the game in the 13th minute as Djed Spence’s eye-of-the-needle through ball released Nmecha into the area. The loanee turned neatly to evade Japhet Tanganga, but Paulo Gazzaniga got down well to block his shot. It was a crucial moment, as just three minutes later, Spurs had their second and the game was effectively up.

It was another self-inflicted wound from a Boro perspective, with Jonny Howson dawdling in his own half as Lamela nicked the ball from his foot. The Argentinian skipped past Paddy McNair as he advanced into the area, before prodding a neat finish past Mejias.

Two goals to the good, Spurs duly cut loose. Having looked pedestrian and predictable in the first game at the Riverside, Mourinho’s side attacked from all angles last night, with Tanganga and Ryan Sessegnon effectively playing as auxiliary wingers rather than full-backs.

Lamela turned on the edge of the area before hammering a rising drive over the bar, Mejias tipped Sessegnon’s low drive around the post and Tanganga drilled wide of the upright when he should really have scored after breaking into the box. And that was all in the space of six first-half minutes.

Boro were reeling, although things might have been different had Ashley Fletcher found the target when he rose to meet Johnson’s free-kick a minute before the break. As it was, the striker’s header sailed harmlessly wide of the target.

The visitors went close again nine minutes after the interval, with Lewis Wing curling in a free-kick that Gazzaniga clawed around the post, and while his side might have been vulnerable at the back, Woodgate would have been buoyed by the way in which Nmecha and Fletcher combined to trouble Davinson Sanchez.

Somewhat understandably, Tottenham lost much of their impetus after the break, although the embarrassment of riches at Mourinho’s disposal was underlined when Heung-Min Son left the bench for the final half-an-hour.

Son’s presence failed to spark the home side back into life though, and Boro set up a nervy finale by scoring with seven minutes left.

Sanchez failed to deal with McNair’s long ball out of defence, and after picking up possession 25 yards out, Saville drilled in a low fizzing strike that evaded Gazzaniga’s right hand and crept into the corner.