Roma players put aside the heartbreak of the death of former teammate Davide Astori to beat Torino 3-0 on Friday, consolidating third place in Serie A.
Kostas Manolas, Daniele De Rossi and Lorenzo Pellegrini – all of whom played with Astori – scored as Roma moved four points ahead of fourth-place Lazio, which visits Cagliari on Sunday.
The 31-year-old Astori, who was Fiorentina’s captain, was found dead in his hotel room on Sunday after a suspected cardiac arrest before his team was to play an Italian league match at Udinese.
Astori spent a season on loan at Roma and the minute’s silence in his memory before kickoff was impeccably observed. Some fans held posters of Astori in his Roma kit, and there was a big banner with “Goodbye Astori, it was lovely to have you with us.”
De Rossi had a close friendship with Astori, while Manolas had been his roommate at times.
“It’s a really emotional night,” Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said. “I’m glad De Rossi scored because it’s been a difficult week for him in particular.
“He told me, `I want to play,’ and I didn’t hesitate for even a second. He deserved the goal to honor Astori.”
De Rossi and other Roma players and staff had gone to his funeral on Thursday, and perhaps the emotion took its toll as the Giallorossi struggled to get going in the first half.
Roma goalkeeper Alisson kept the scoreline goalless with a number of saves, notably tipping Iago Falque’s shot around his right post.
Roma broke the deadlock 11 minutes after the break as Manolas was left unmarked to head home Alessandro Florenzi’s cross. After the goal, Manolas went to his knees and looked up while pointing at the sky.
De Rossi, who also played with Astori for Italy, didn’t celebrate when he volleyed in after Radja Nainggolan headed on Florenzi’s cross in the 73rd.
Pellegrini finished off a rapid counterattack for Roma’s third in stoppage time.
It was Roma’s second home win since mid-December, and it should boost the team’s confidence ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk, with Di Francesco’s side trailing 2-1 from the first leg.