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ANN ARBOR, Michigan — For 47 minutes on Saturday at Michigan Stadium, it appeared that Napoli and Barça were headed for a scoreless draw. Then, in the blink of an eye, it was all over.
Clinging to a 2-1 aggregate lead after Wednesday’s triumph in Miami, and with the second half barely underway, the Catalans scored four times in 15 minutes to run up a 6-1 aggregate lead over Napoli, for all intents and purposes clinching the La Liga Serie A Cup with over 25 minutes to play.
Luis Suárez opened the scoring in the 48th when he set Antoine Griezmann free on a give-and-go, only to see Griezmann’s shot saved before Suárez swooped in to stash home the rebound.
Eight minutes later, in the 56th, Griezmann notched his first Barça goal from the doorstep following an assist from Jordi Alba.
Just two more minutes went by when Suárez scored his team-leading third goal of the preseason in the 58th, providing a clinical finish with a one-time shot from just outside the area that curled past the outstretched arms of the goalkeeper and into the upper right corner.
Ousmane Dembélé rounded out the onslaught in the 63rd, finishing with a low shot from the right edge of the area, back across the box and into the lower left corner.
It was a remarkable quarter-hour for FC Barcelona, which for the first time this preseason did not make any substitutions at the half, as manager Ernesto Valverde chose to keep his starting XI on the field in their final match before Friday’s La Liga opener at Athletic Club Bilbao.
THE BIG HOUSE
The big win over Napoli was consummated at the biggest stadium Barça has ever played in. Michigan Stadium, on the campus of the University of Michigan here in Ann Arbor, with a capacity for 107,601, is the biggest stadium in the United States — and the second biggest in the world.
Attendance here on Saturday was announced as 60,043. With fans dispersed throughout the cavernous seating bowl, one of the game’s most curious moments came midway through the first half, when during a water break match officials posted a message on the Michigan Stadium jumbotrons encouraging fans to “feel free to move down closer to the field and fill in any empty seats.”
Within seconds, thousands of fans began percolating downwards, filling in the entire lower two-thirds of Michigan Stadium. The result? Untold thousands of happy fans and a more exciting atmosphere throughout the remainder of the match.
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