It took Gareth Bale only 13 minutes to score on his first start at the Bernabéu and 13 minutes more to hit a second. The world's most expensive player, who had endured a stuttering start to his Real Madrid career because of injury, cut in from the right to curl in a powerful first goal and then got a second with a deflected free-kick after 26 minutes.
He also provided two assists and produced a superb performance in Madrid's 7-3 victory over Sevilla in a quite insane match that included a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick. Only a missed penalty prevented Sevilla's Ivan Rakitic from joining Ronaldo. Rakitic, Karim Benzema and Bale all got two each.
Just as significant, from Bale's point of view, was that he lasted 90 minutes. This was the first time he had played an entire game for Madrid. His previous best had been an hour. In three league starts, Bale has now scored three league goals. A difficult beginning to his Spanish career has been put behind him in emphatic fashion. He has also marked both his full debuts with a goal, at Villarreal and now at the Bernabéu. He said: "It was a mad game. The most important thing is the three points. I felt fine playing the whole game."
Carlo Ancelotti, the Madrid coach, said: "That was the real Gareth. Fantastic skills. Physically he's fine now. He's going to be important for us."
The first goal was a wonderful move, with Isco and Benzema creating the chance on the left, before Benzema pulled the ball back across the penalty area to the inside-right position. Bale controlled with the outside of his left foot and whipped the ball into the far top corner from about 15 yards. It was a superb finish.
What was striking about his second was the fact that he was given the chance. On the day the Welshman made his £86m move from Tottenham Hotspur, he joked that he would have to ask Ronaldo for permission to take free-kicks, describing the Portuguese winger as "the boss". When Madrid won a free-kick to the right hand side of the penalty area, 25 yards out, it was Bale who took it. His shot took a huge deflection and spun into the far corner of the net.
Bale looked sharp and incisive. By that point he had already taken two other shots on goal: the first, swinging low towards the far post, was pushed away by Sevilla goalkeeper Beto, the second was struck just over with the outside of his boot There was an opportunity for a hat-trick when Isco was brought down. This time, though, Ronaldo took the penalty and scored, celebrating by performing a military salute in response to Sepp Blatter, who has caused a scandal in Spain with his comments at Oxford University, where he compared Ronaldo unfavourably to Lionel Messi. Ronaldo, he said, was "like a military commander". The president of Fifa had also performed a quite bizarre straight-backed military-style march, supposedly reflecting the way the Portuguese plays.
A mad game never settled. Sevilla scored twice in a minute, through Rakitic and Carlos Bacca, to make it 3-2 at half-time. But seven minutes into the second half, Bale made another decisive contribution. A swift break saw Ronaldo find Bale on the right and he pulled the ball back with his right foot for Benzema to finish. And just before the hour there was another one. Bale went past two men on the right and pulled back another excellent low cross, this time for Ronaldo, who scored his second.
Bale was flying now. The game was wide open, with space to exploit. A moment later, Bale went down in the area, tumbling as he dashed between Alberto Moreno and Fernando Navarro. The referee ignored the appeals and replays suggested that any contact was minimal at best.
There was much to come still. Moments later, Sevilla made it 5-3, Rakitic getting his second. With 20 minutes to go Ronaldo completed his hat-trick to make it 6-3 but almost immediately Ronaldo challenged Figueiras. It appeared to be outside the area and did not look like a foul but the referee give Sevilla a penalty. Rakitic had the chance to score a hat-trick of his own but he thumped the spot-kick over the bar.
With 11 minutes to go, Benzema headed in Modric's cross. Ronaldo had scored a hat-trick; now there were three players who were a goal away from one. The only surprise, given the way the game had gone, was that none of them got a third.
For Madrid and for Bale, this performance was especially satisfying because it came off the back of a disappointing clásico on Saturday. Bale had started only his second game and played 60 minutes against Barcelona. That had pleased Ancelotti as Bale continued his recovery from a thigh injurybut he did not always look comfortable in a central-attacking position and was unable to make a major impact.
Bale scored on his league debut at the Madrigal but thigh problems had largely kept him out since, limiting him to substitute appearances. Before Wednesday night's start he had played 49 minutes in the Champions League and 185 minutes in La Liga, spread across two starts and two appearances as a sub. Now Bale made his first start at his new home. And he was not going to wait any longer, even if there was still 64 minutes and plenty more madness to come.