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Serie A: Napoli handed title lifeline, throw it away a day later

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ROME (AP) Napoli’s title hopes were dealt a severe blow with a 3-0 loss at Fiorentina on Sunday that leaves Juventus with a clear path toward a record-extending seventh straight Serie A championship.

Napoli played most of the match with 10 men after Kalidou Koulibaly was sent off for a last-man foul on Giovanni Simeone, who went on to score a hat trick.

Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri called it his squad’s “worst match of the season.”

After Koulibaly’s red card and Fiorentina’s first goal “we were completely lost,” Sarri said. “Over the course of the season we’ve done well to handle these types of problems but today we didn’t.”

Napoli was left four points behind Juventus with three matches to play – the same gap which existed until the Partenopei beat Juventus a week ago.

Juventus produced two goals in the final four minutes of a 3-2 win at 10-man Inter Milan on Saturday.

However, Juventus will have to overcome an injury to striker Mario Mandzukic, who had 10 stitches applied to a deep cut in his left ankle after getting stepped on by Matias Vecino against Inter.

In Florence, Koulibaly was first shown a yellow and a penalty was awarded since the referee believed the foul had occurred inside the area. But after VAR help, the referee ruled that the foul had occurred outside the area and changed the card from yellow to red.

Simeone, the son of Atletico Madrid coach and former Argentina international Diego Simeone, finished off a counterattack later in the first half by shooting under the legs of goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

Then after the hour mark, Simeone was quickest to a rebound following a corner and scored from close range. He then added another from a counterattack in the 90th, running past a confused Mario Rui for his 13th of the season.

“Clearly, having an extra man after eight minutes was a huge advantage,” Fiorentina coach Stefano Pioli said. “We had the right ideas even with 11 against 11, but we should have scored more goals earlier on.

“We knew Napoli could be dangerous, so we tried to pass the ball and never stopped pressing,” Pioli added. “There’s no such thing as a perfect performance, but I think we came pretty close.”

Fiorentina is ninth, four points below the Europa League spots.


AC Milan ended a five-match winless streak with a 2-1 victory at Bologna to revive its pursuit of a Europa League spot.

Hakan Calhanoglu and Giacomo Bonaventura scored in the first half for the Rossoneri, which had lost two and drawn three since beating Chievo in mid-March.

Milan remained one point behind sixth-place Atalanta, which beat Genoa 3-1, in the fight for the last Europa League spot.

Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso didn’t give his squad any days off this week following a 1-0 loss at home against Bologna last weekend, acknowledging that the club had “touched bottom.”

Calhanoglu was set up by Patrick Cutrone to score from beyond the area in the 34th.

Bologna thought it had equalized four minutes later but what would have been Riccardo Orsolini’s first Serie A goal was waved off by the VAR for a handball in the buildup by Rodrigo Palacio.

Bonaventura then took advantage of a defensive mistake and fooled his marker before firing in an angled shot.

Sebastian De Maio pulled one back for Bologna with a header after the break.

Musa Barrow, Bryan Cristante and Josip Ilicic scored for Atalanta.

Lazio won 1-0 at Torino to stay level on points with third-place Roma and on course for a Champions League berth.

Roma and Lazio are each four points ahead of Inter.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic scored with a header early in the second half for Lazio after Torino goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu saved an early penalty from Luis Alberto.

Fiorentina renames training ground for Davide Astori

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Fiorentina’s training ground has been renamed “Centro Sportivo Davide Astori” in honor of the club’s deceased captain.

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Davide Astori died in his team hotel room on March 4, shocking the Italian soccer world and triggering tributes around the world of soccer.

The respected Italian national team center back has had number retired by both Fiorentina and former club Cagliari.

Thousands packed a Florence piazza to salute the player en route to his funeral, and the club won its first match after his passing following vivid pre- and in-match tributes.

Fiorentina wins emotional first match since captain Astori’s death

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MILAN (AP) Fiorentina played its first match since the death of captain Davide Astori, beating last-place 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 due to play an Italian league match at Udinese.

“Davide was, and will always remain, our light,” said new Fiorentina captain Milan Badelj. “No one will ever forget this match, it will be difficult … Florence has shown us its soul, we are all united after a tragedy like this.”

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 banner reading: “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, which had many in tears.

The players also stopped to remember Astori after 13 minutes of the game and there was special choreography in the stands, with the fans turning one end purple with “Davide 13” while everyone chanted Astori’s name — as they did for most of the match.

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 for midtable Fiorentina.

Hugo 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 Badelj.

Many of the players collapsed to the ground after the final whistle, with tears streaming down their faces.

“I hope that, from above, Davide is proud of us, I am convinced he gave a hand to Vitor Hugo to jump so high, he is always on the pitch with us,” said Fiorentina midfielder Marco Benassi.

“It has been a difficult day, like the whole week, we have felt a great emptiness.”

Fiorentina-Benevento salutes Astori, releases thousands of balloons (video)

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Fans held “Grazie Capitano” signs, and the Fiorentina players donned No. 13 jerseys in warm-ups and held a “Ciao Davide” sign after the walkout on an incredibly emotional Sunday morning in Italy.

Fiorentina and Benevento honored Davide Astori, La Viola‘s 31-year-old captain who died last week, by pausing the Serie A match in the 13th minute at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

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Astori’s funeral march was attended by thousands on Thursday, with Juventus’ players flying from their UEFA Champions League match at Tottenham Hotspur in order to mourn and celebrate the life of the 14-times capped Italian national team defender.

The stadium also released thousands of violet and white balloons before kickoff.

Thousands come to pay respects to Astori

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A piazza in Florence was packed with purple shirts and purple smoke, but the people were not there for a celebration.

Thousands of people descended on Florence to pay their respects and say good bye to Fiorentina captain Davide Astori, who tragically passed away early Sunday morning from what’s been reported as cardiac arrest.

In addition to the fans who filled the Piazza Santa Croce, Astori’s former teammates with Fiorentina, Cagliari and the Italian National Team arrived in the city this morning to say one last good bye as well as the funeral took place. Juventus’ players arrived in Florence straight off a plane from London, where they played a UEFA Champions League match the night before.

One of the eulogies given came from Fiorentina midfielder Milan Badelj, who called Astori the “best teammate you could dream of.”

“Davide, you are simple, direct, pragmatic,” Badelj said. “With your deep gaze you can get in to someone’s eyes and stay there, you’re not like all the others. You managed to talk to us all, to show us the way. You always talked with your heart, you motivated the youngest and the older ones with the gift of the universal language of the heart, a gift that very few have.

“You are the brother or the son that everyone would want to have. Your parents got nothing wrong with you, not one comma.

“You’re the best teammate a lad could dream of when starting out in this beautiful game. How can we forget your laughs, your sense of humor? “You are not like the others, you are football – the real thing, the pure football of children.

Below are some photos and video of the scene in Florence. Ciao, Davide.