Montreal Impact forward Marco Di Vaio may not have scored, but his homecoming could hardly have gone better.
Bologna F.C. defeated the Impact 1-0 in the first game of the Impact's postseason tour of Italy on Thursday, but the main talking point after the final whistle was the warm welcome that the former Rossoblù captain got from the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara faithful.
As both teams entered the field for kickoff, the Bologna supporters unfurled a large banner saying “Our love extends beyond the ocean … welcome home, Captain!” Di Vaio, who fittingly wore the armband for the Impact, was deeply touched by the gesture.
“I was really happy to have the chance to play today,” Di Vaio said. “It was very emotional for me. Never did I think that I’d get the chance to come back here and play against Bologna with the Impact. I’d like to thank Davy [Arnaud] very much for allowing me to wear the captain’s band tonight. It was really special.”
WATCH: Montreal arrive in Bologna
Impact interim head coach Mauro Biello stated after the match that Di Vaio and his teammates looked like they had “left [their] legs on the plane in the first half,” and crucially, Bologna scored the only goal of the game in the 24th minute. Midfielder Marti Riverola bent in a cross from the right, and forward Daniele Paponi was there to right-foot it past Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
Sanna Nyassi came closest to scoring for Montreal. A Calum Mallace ball handed the Gambian international an opportunity to test Bologna ‘keeper Gianluca Curci in the 77th minute, but Nyassi’s low shot was saved.
“You can see the difference in the level,” Perkins said after the game. “They were sharper, a little tighter in the style of game and their knowledge. Some of that was obviously the time change and the long flight. But near the end, we played a lot better and I’m pleased with our performance.”
The Impact left for Florence after the game. They will face Fiorentina on Nov. 15 at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. A third game against Fiorentina's reserve side is on the agenda, though the time and date are still to be determined.
Olivier Tremblay covers the Montreal Impact for MLSsoccer.com