03.03.2019 21:11 h

Atalanta hold on to Champions League hopes as Italy remembers Astori

Atalanta kept their hopes of Champions League football alive after beating Fiorentina 3-1 on an emotional day in which Serie A honoured the memory of the Viola's deceased former captain Davide Astori.

Gian Piero Gasperini's flamboyant side are six points behind fourth-placed Inter Milan after winning the second spectacular clash with Fiorentina in a matter of days after their thrilling 3-3 Coppa Italia semi-final draw midweek.

Goals from Josip Ilicic, Alejandro Gomez and Robin Gosens saw Atalanta through in Bergamo amid moving tributes for ex-Italy international Astori, who died in his sleep aged just 31 on March 4 last year in a hotel ahead of ahead of Fiorentina's match at Udinese.

As with the rest of Serie A matches this weekend play was stopped in the 13th minute out of respect for Astori, who wore the number 13 shirt in honour of his idol, former Italy and AC Milan centre-back Alessandro Nesta.

Astori's name was chanted by fans of Milan, where he came through as a youth player, during a 1-0 win over Sassuolo on Saturday that took Gennaro Gattuso's side third and a point above Inter, who lost 2-1 at Cagliari amid a public contract dispute with absent star striker Mauro Icardi.

"This situation has taken over a huge part of us this week. Tomorrow we will close to his family as we have been for the last year," said Fiorentina Stefano Pioli

Atalanta's playmaker Ilicic, who played alongside Astori at Fiorentina, broke down in tears when played stopped, while away fans held up "Astori" signs and the home fans showed appreciation for a player born and raised in the province of Bergamo.

The Slovenian composed himself enough to level Luis Muriel's third-minute opener in the 28th minute thanks to a shot that took a huge deflection off Jordan Veretout and six minutes later Gomez put the hosts ahead with a wonderful run and shot past Alban Lafont.

Gosens added the decisive third just before the hour mark following a goalmouth scramble to move his side level on 41 points with Lazio, 3-0 winners over Roma in Saturday's Rome derby, and Torino, who beat rock-bottom Chievo by the same score on Sunday.

"It's a hugely important three points for our season," said Gasperini.

"We were right physically and mentally against a Fiorentina team that has pace and quality up front. That wasn't easy at all."

Two points further back are Sampdoria, thanks to Fabio Quagliarella joining Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring charts with 19 goals following a brace in his side's 2-1 win at struggling SPAL.

Veteran striker Quagliarella, 36, has already matched his league tally for last season in a match that saw home fans leave the stadium in protest when Sergio Floccari's second half goal was ruled out for the tightest of offsides by the video assistant referee (VAR) system.

"I don't feel like anyone special," said modest Quagliarella after the match.

The Italian, recently recalled to the Italy set up after an incredible season that saw him equal Gabriel Batistuta's record of scoring in 11 consecutive Serie A matches last month, downplayed his scintillating personal form.

"I'm not the star man, I'm part of a team that works towards a single objective, everyone is useful and no-one is indispensible," added Quagliarella.

Jasmin Kurtic eventually pulled one back for the hosts deep in injury time but Quagliarella's goals were enough for the three points.

Ignacio Pussetto's winner 11 minutes from time in a 2-1 win over third-from-bottom Bologna saw Udinese move up to 15th, seven points clear of their opponents on Sunday and the relegation zone.

Bologna are four points from safety after the defeat, only one ahead of Frosinone in 19th, who held mid-table Genoa to a goalless draw despite having to play with 10 men for nearly an hour.

Carlo Ancelotti's Napoli host runaway leaders Juventus in Sunday's late game hoping to close the gap between the pair to 10 points.