Davide Astori honoured as Fiorentina defeat Udinese in rescheduled game
Fiorentina defeated Udinese 2-0 on Tuesday in a Serie A game postponed hours before it was scheduled to be played last month because of the sudden death of their captain, Davide Astori.
A minute's applause was held at the Stadio Friuli in Udine prior to kickoff, with fans of both sides chanting Astori's name during the game and countless banners paying respect to the defender, who was found dead in his hotel room after a suspected cardiac arrest on the morning of March 4.
Fans in the stadium applauded once again in the 13th minute in recognition of Astori's shirt number.
"It certainly wasn't easy," Fiorentina coach Stefano Pioli said at a postgame news conference. "The memory of the tragedy is still fresh and it will always be there."
Jordan Veretout converted a penalty in the 29th minute and Giovanni Simeone doubled the lead in the 71st as Fiorentina won their fifth consecutive game -- and fourth since Astori's death -- to move to eighth in the table and within three points of the Europa League places.
"The squad has become more compact and these lads have united, and they have shown that they have an extraordinary strength to push on with the work Davide left behind," Pioli said. "He's still with us and now we're giving even more on the field."
Fiorentina midfielder Marco Benassi admitted it was difficult to return to Udine after Astori's death, writing on Instagram that the team dedicated the victory to the defender.
"It wasn't easy coming back to Udine after what happened," Benassi wrote. "Today, more than ever, Davide was with us and we won for Davide. Together."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.