Vitor Hugo scored the only goal amid truly emotional scenes, as Fiorentina beat Benevento on their first game back since captain Davide Astori’s death.
This was no ordinary match, as the Viola returned to the field for the first time since captain Astori died in his sleep a week ago. The funeral was held on Thursday and there were more deeply emotional scenes as the fans saluted the 31-year-old defender in a minute of deafening silence before purple and white balloons were released into the sky. A banner read: ‘There are men who never die… There are stories that are passed on through eternity… Bon voyage, Captain.’
Benevento were bottom of the table and could not count on Sandro, Marco D’Alessandro, Luca Antei, Fabio Lucioni or suspended Nicolas Viola.
On 13 minutes, to mark Astori’s shirt number, play halted and the stands were turned into a giant work of art with one message: ‘Davide 13.’
The moment the game resumed, Giovanni Simeone went clear on goal after controlling a difficult through ball and forced Christian Puggioni to parry with an outstretched boot.
Cholito went close again, curling inches wide, but it was only right that the man to score first should be the defender replacing Astori in the line-up. Vitor Hugo leapt into the sky to meet a Riccardo Saponara corner. He celebrated by running to the bench, holding up Astori’s image and then saluting it, like a soldier to his captain. His shirt number is 31.
Puggioni also denied Saponara, while Marco Sportiello smothered a Cristiano Lombardi strike at the near post.
Benevento’s Guilherme curled over the bar from the edge of the box and there were timid penalty appeals when his cross was charged down by Cristiano Biraghi’s arm, but it was considered to be involuntary.
Federico Chiesa also saw an attempt on goal deflected wide, but Benevento were unlucky not to get an equaliser in the final minutes when a short corner found Massimo Coda’s header to bounce off the far post.
Deep into stoppages, Milan Badelj saw his strike from distance ricochet off the inside of the upright, but Marco Benassi failed to turn in the rebound.
See the latest Serie A predictions and betting tips with Eurotips.co.uk