It was the last thing West Ham’s beleaguered players wanted. They’d just spent 72 minutes suffering at the hands of Harry Kane only to see Gareth Bale emerge from his seat on the bench, stripped and ready to come on for his second Tottenham debut.
His hair in bun and wearing the No 9 – 30 days after re-signing – Bale was back home, seven years after departing for Real Madrid.
As is it turns out, West Ham players and David Moyes didn’t need to worry.
Gareth Bale’s first game since rejoining Tottenham did not go according to plan
Bale was straight into the thick of the action immediately pulling rank to take the free-kick that allowed his introduction in place of Steven Bergwijn.
His strike from fully 35 yard was easily dealt with Lukasz Fabianski – even by Bale’s sky-high standards scoring with your first touch from a free kick is beyond realism.
Yet, there was a slight tinge of disappointment when Bale’s effort didn’t rocket past Fabianski.
It’s how Tottenham supporters remember Bale. Goals, assists – their very own Superman.
The 31-year-old forward came on in the 72nd minute with his side leading by three goals
He was super-human when he left to become a Galactico in 2013 – everything he touched turned to gold.
Things change, though. Indeed, it may be wise for Tottenham fans to temper their expectations of Bale.
At 31, it remains to be seen whether the Wales international can replicate those barnstorming performances that saw him become the hottest property in European football.
The Premier League certainly hasn’t got any easier as Bale found discovered first hand on his return to the English football.
Bale showed some glimpses of his former self but his involvement in the game was scarce
Spurs were 3-0 up when he came on, they were clinging on for dear life by the end as West Ham scored twice in in quick succession to set up what would turn out to be a phenomenal finish to the game.
Bale’s involvement was scarce as he came on, the majority of his time spent trying to thwart West Ham’s increasingly dangerous forays forward.
Yet, we were still treated to glimpse of his utter brilliance in injury time, Bale searing through the Hammers defence to see the whites of Fabianski’s eyes – only to fire wide when it appeared easier to score.
It was exactly what we remember of Bale. Power, pace and trickery – only the precision that was missing.
The Welshman and his side threw away their lead as West Ham pulled off a stunning comeback
But then Bale was served a cold reminder of exactly how unforgiving England’s top-flight can be.
Agonisingly close to 4-2; moments later Spurs had thrown it all away as Manuel Lanzini thundered home an audacious equaliser to leave Bale’s homecoming in tatters.
When Bale left for Spain, he was used to having all his own way. His 18 minute cameo maybe football’s way of telling him it’ll be different this time around.