MILAN (AP) Fiorentina played its first match since the death of captain Davide Astori, beating Benevento 1-0 on an emotional Sunday at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
The 31-year-old Astori was found dead in his hotel room last Sunday after a suspected cardiac arrest before his team was to play an Italian league match at Udinese.
The Fiorentina players and staff all came out for the warmup wearing Astori No. 13 shirts and lined up next to a giant poster of his shirt and the words ”captain forever.” They also held up a banner with ”Ciao Davide” before kickoff.
There were plenty more No. 13 shirts and banners in the stands, including in the visitors’ section, with one huge one that read: ”There are men who never die. There are stories that are passed on through eternity. Bon voyage, Captain.”
Purple and white balloons were released after an impeccably observed minute’s silence as part of a series of deeply moving scenes.
The players also stopped in the 13th minute of the match and there was special choreography in the stands, with the fans turning one end purple with ”Davide 13” while everyone chanted Astori’s name.
Vitor Hugo, the player who replaced Astori in the starting lineup, scored the only goal of the match in the 25th minute, leaping high to head in Riccardo Saponara’s corner.
He celebrated by running to the bench with a T-shirt bearing Astori’s face, giving it to a member of staff and saluting it.
Both teams hit the post in the final minutes, through Massimo Coda and new Fiorentina captain Milan Badelj.
JOY FOR LA JOYA
Paulo Dybala scored twice as Juventus beat Udinese 2-0 to move top of Serie A, despite Gonzalo Higuain missing another penalty.
Juventus moved two points ahead of Napoli, which visits Inter Milan later.
AC Milan was also playing later, at Genoa.
Dybala, nicknamed ”La Joya” (the jewel), broke the deadlock in the 20th minute, curling a trademark free kick into the top corner.
Higuain should have doubled his side’s lead after Dybala was fouled in the area by Gabriele Angella, but he saw his spot kick saved by Udinese goalkeeper Albano Bizzarri shortly before halftime.
It was the fifth penalty Higuain has missed in Serie A.
Higuain atoned for his error by setting up Dybala’s second four minutes after the break.
It was Dybala’s fourth goal in his past three matches.
The fight for survival is heating up.
Three teams are now on 24 points, two above 19th-placed Hellas Verona and one below 15th-placed Chievo Verona.
Spal got sucked into the relegation zone after drawing 1-1 at Sassuolo, which is above it only thanks to a better head-to-head record.
Crotone is also on 24 points but moved out of the bottom three after a surprise 4-1 win over Europa League-chasing Sampdoria.
Cagliari is only two points ahead. It almost managed a shock victory over fourth-placed Lazio but Ciro Immobile scored deep in stoppage time to secure a 2-2 draw.
Elsewhere, Atalanta beat Bologna 1-0.
More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA