They waited seven long years for Gareth Bale to produce another dramatic late winner.
It should have been a hero’s homecoming to send the new White Hart Lane into raptures as one of the true great players of the last decade produced another magical moment.
Instead, it was left to one executive box in the stadium – presumably one containing all the Tottenham directors signing the cheques – to celebrate and make surely the loudest noise any empty ground has heard since Project Restart.
Supersub Bale scored with a priceless header to give Tottenham their first home win in the Premier League this season and send them up to second in the table.
What a crazy season when the team in second only gets their first home win in November.
The game was dominated by VAR decisions, Harry Kane scored yet again and, thankfully, Bale’s goal did not need a video check.
Bale, who left Spurs for Real Madrid in 2013 in a record breaking £85m, won two La Ligas, four Champions League trophies and is the most successful British export of all time.
Yet Bale has returned to Tottenham lacking match fitness, looking a pale shadow of his former self and yet this goal will give Spurs fans – the ones who paid the £14.95 pay-per-view fee – a glimpse of the old magic.
And the prospect of a fully fit Bale alongside Kane – who has now scored six Premier League goals, got eight assists this season and has 199 in total for Spurs – and Heung-Min Son will leave Jose Mourinho believing second place is no fluke and they can go higher.
But we did have to overcome a crazy game in which all the talk will be about VAR and the joy that it is slapping out of the game. It felt like every decision went to a video referee based at the now mythical Stockley Park. It has become a joke.
The first one came after just 12 minutes. Brighton tried to clear the ball from their penalty box, Kane was clever in the way he used his body to draw a foul from Adam Lallana who was jumping for the ball.
There was no doubt it was a foul but referee Graham Scott gave a free kick as it looked outside but went to VAR and the video ref Jon Moss ruled Kane’s leg was on the line of the box and therefore was a penalty.
Up stepped Kane to convert it.
Then, after 23 minutes, you felt VAR would rule in Brighton’s favour as Matt Doherty pulled back Leandro Trossard as he tried to get on the end of a cross. Incredibly, VAR did not give a penalty.
To Brighton’s amazement, the VAR gave nothing and Scott just gave a goal kick. Brighton boss Graham Potter put his head in his hands, the visiting players – led by Pascal Gross – were still arguing at half time as they felt so aggrieved.
Sure enough, the next key moment also involved VAR. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg was trying to bring the ball out, Solly March made a sliding tackle which looked a foul but then March got up, got the ball to Pascal Gross and his lay off set up Tariq Lamptey to fire home the equaliser.
It looked a clear foul but the VAR let Scott decide. The ref checked his pitch side monitor and let it stand.
It was at least some reward for Lamptey who had another great game.
Tottenham looked out of luck as Erik Lamela hit the post, Kane missed from a yard and Brighton keeper Robert Sanchez pulled off a super save to stop Joel Veltman scoring an own goal.
Finally, the home win arrived after 73 minutes. Sergio Reguilon’s cross found Bale at the near post and his flicked header squeezed inside Sanchez’s near post.
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Hugo Lloris 6
Solid enough game, Brighton would have wanted to trouble him more.
Matt Doherty 6
Very lucky to escape a VAR check for shirt pull on Trossard.
Toby Alderweireld 7
Tottenham’s defensive kingpin, still the No1 and a battle to be alongside him.
Eric Dier 7
Better option at centre half, much more solid alongside Alderweireld.
Sergio Reguilón 7
Booked. Looks a proper player, tough but with flair. Provided assist for Bale.
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg 8 MOTM
The defensive shield, improving all the time. Just edged Lamptey.
Moussa Sissoko 6
Good strength, more effective than Ndombele and did ok overall.
Tanguy Ndombele 5
Booked. Such an entertaining player but this was an off night. Quiet.
Erik Lamela 6
A few flicks and drag backs, but not nearly enough end product to be effective.
Son Heung-min 6
Showed good pace and tried but little came off for him. Looked jaded.
Harry Kane 7
His stats are incredible. 149 PL goals, six goals and eight assists this season.
Subs: Lo Celso 7 (Ndombele 64′) Bale 7 (Lamela, 70′) Davies (Son, 85′)
Robert Sánchez 7
Brought in for Mat Ryan, feels as if it’s been coming. Spectacular save to stop OG.
Adam Webster 7
Skipper again, good leader, strong in defence and comfortable stepping out.
Joel Veltman 6
Struggled to cope with Kane, brings valuable experience, nearly scored own goal.
Dan Burn 6
Booked. Did well on left of a back three. Despite his size, always composed.
Tariq Lamptey 8
Scored the leveller. Terrific player, improves in every game. What a prospect.
Ben White 7
Looks such a good player, has slotted into midfield perfectly,
Yves Bissouma 7
Improving as a player for Brighton, tenacious and hard working.
Solly March 7
Done very well at left wing back, played key role in equaliser. Injured.
Pascal Gross 7
Linked the play between defence and attack, provided an assist.
Adam Lallana 7
The penalty award looked harsh. Works hard and is a terrific example.
Leandro Trossard 6
Had big penalty shout. Played as false nine and worked hard.
Subs: Bernardo 6 (March, 65′) Welbeck (Trossard 74′) Mac Allister (Lamptey 79′)
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