Under the floodlights in north London, Arsenal were the victors, beating Cardiff City 2-1 in the Welsh club’s first game since the aircraft carrying record signing Emiliano Sala disappeared from radar last week.

Yet a Cardiff win would have been of little consolation anyway for those red-eyed with grief.

There was no escaping the poignancy of the occasion, a match which would likely have been the 28-year-old’s first for the club he joined from French club Nantes for $19.3 million less than a fortnight ago.

Even the sky was weeping as both captains placed floral tributes on the pitch before the match though, at the request of the family, black armbands were not worn as the Argentine striker has not been confirmed dead.

Instead, Cardiff staff and fans wore yellow daffodils, the national flower of Wales and also of significance to Sala’s former club Nantes.

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Players, fans and officals pay  tribute to Emiliano Sala prior to the EPL game at the Emirates Stadium

A corner of the Emirates Stadium turned yellow too as visiting fans held aloft daffodil-colored cards prior to kick-off. Argentina flags and Nantes scarves were also raised and, covering the first few rows of the Cardiff section, one banner read: “We never saw you play and never saw you score but Emiliano our beautiful Bluebird we will love you forever.”

A minute’s silence grew into applause as both sets of fans paid their respects to Sala and pilot David Ibbotson. Head bowed on the sidelines, Cardiff manager Neil Warnock closed his eyes.

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Fans hold up a banner in the colours of the Argentina flag

In the matchday programme, Arsenal manager Unai Emery had said the minute’s silence was a chance to “reflect on last week’s tragic event,” while Arsenal captain Laurent Koscielny wrote “we will all be thinking of Emiliano Sala.”

Koscielny played for France against Germany in the international friendly which was the target of a terrorist attack in November 2015 and admitted it was difficult to play under “tragic circumstances.”

“You have to be professional, but you also feel the emotion, the sadness around you. There are things far more important than football and you don’t know what tomorrow will bring,” the Frenchman said.

Fans hold up yellow banners and a Nantes scarf

Throughout the week managers and players reiterated how futile their profession seemed on such desperately sad occasions like this.

Speaking publicly Monday for the first time since it emerged that Sala was on board the plane that disappeared near the Channel Islands, Warnock said he had considered retiring during “by far the most difficult week in my career by an absolute mile.”

With Warnock revealing that several players had undergone counseling over the last week, though Cardiff is a club in the relegation zone it still needs time to heal before the focus returns fully to the battle to remain in English football’s top flight.

Under the circumstances, Warnock’s men performed stoically and in the first half particularly posed problems to an Arsenal side fresh from an FA Cup defeat by Manchester United.

The Bluebirds will now forever wonder what would have been had their recently acquired 6ft 2in striker, scorer of 12 goals in 19 appearances in France’s Ligue 1 this season, been on the pitch leading the line, holding up play, testing a notoriously frail Arsenal defense.

More to follow.

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