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Former Toronto FC striker Sebastian Giovinco scores in debut for new Saudi club

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Former Toronto FC striker Sebastian Giovinco scored in his debut for Al-Hilal FC as the Saudi champion beat Al-Qadsiah 4-1 on Tuesday in Saudi Pro League play. Giovinco, who wore No.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Former Toronto FC striker Sebastian Giovinco scored in his debut for Al-Hilal FC as the Saudi champion beat Al-Qadsiah 4-1 on Tuesday in Saudi Pro League play.

Giovinco, who wore No. 9, entered the game in the 61st minute for Peruvian international Andre Carrillo at King Saud University Stadium. Al-Hilal was leading 2-0 at the time.

After Al-Qadsiah pulled one goal back in the 67th minute, Giovinco opened his account for Al Hilal in the 80th minute.

Taking a pass from winger Yaseer Al-Shahrani, Giovinco headed toward the penalty box — drawing two defenders on the way. The Italian played a give-and-go with French international Bafetimbi Gomis, slashing through the defence before slotting a right-footed shot home.

Giovinco wheeled away, his tongue hanging out in celebration before he was swallowed up by his new teammates.

Gomis and Saudi internationals Nawaf Shaker Al Abed and Ali Hadi Al-Bulaihi also scored for Al-Hilal.

Toronto sold the disgruntled Italian international to Al-Hilal on Jan. 31 after a contract impasse. A source pegged the transfer fee at US$2 million to $3 million.

Giovinco, who turned 32 on Jan. 26, was entering the last year of a contract that paid him an MLS-best US$7.115 million last season. TFC says Giovinco was unwilling to take a pay cut. The player himself said he "would have accepted less to stay in Toronto."

In four seasons with Toronto, Giovinco had 68 goals and 52 assists in 114 regular-season games (111 starts). He won MVP honours in his debut 2015 season, when he was directly involved in 65 per cent of Toronto's 58 goals with 22 goals and 16 assists.

In all competitions, he had 83 goals and 64 assists in 142 appearances.

A smiling Giovinco was introduced to his new fans in Saudi Arabia a week ago when he took to the field at halftime of Al-Hilal's 4-1 win over Al-Fateh in Saudi league play Monday night.

Waving to fans and taking a selfie video, he wore a blue Al-Hilal jersey that read Welcome to Giovinco on the back.


The Canadian Press