MEXICO: It's Monterrey vs. Santos
The expected sides emerged from the Mexican Primera Division semifinals Sunday, and the two-leg title series will begin in Torreon on Thursday night. The second leg will be played next Sunday in Monterrey.
America rallied three times in the second half on goals by Vicente Sanchez, Matias Vuoso and Enrique Esqueda, but it wasn't nearly enough -- the Aguilas needed to win by two goals to reach the final. Carlos Darwin Quintero made the task much more difficult, firing Santos ahead in the second minute. he scored a second in the 61st, and Christian Benitez netted his 16th of the campaign in the 75th.
Second-seeded Monterrey, which beat Santos, 2-1, Oct. 23 in Torreon, would have advanced with another 0-0 draw against Pumas. But Humberto Suazo took advantage of a defensive miscue in the 88th minute, and Neri Cardozo doubled the advantage two minutes into stoppage.
Santos will be without backline leader Felipe Baloy in the first leg. He was ejected after picking up his second yellow card in the 69th minute.
The Rayados won the Apertura title last year, then was upset in the quarterfinals after posting the best regular-season mark, at 10-1-6, in last spring's Clausura. Santos lost on penalties to Toluca in the Clausura final.
LIGA DE ASCENSO: Club Tijuana and Veracruz, the top two teams in the second-tier Ascenso most of the season, will meet in next week's final.
Tijuana, the top seed, advanced after a second 0-0 draw with Albinegros de Orizaba, the Xoloitzcuintles' 12th shutout in 19 games and eighth in 10 matches at Estadio Caliente.
Fifth-seeded Veracruz overcame a two-goal deficit in the first leg, pushing through with a 3-1 victory over visiting Irapuato that left aggregate even at 3-3. Both finalists benefited as higher-seeded teams, the first tiebreaker in the playoffs.
Tijuana, which won the regular-season meeting, 2-0, two weeks ago in T.J., will travel to Veracruz for the first leg, tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, and play the second leg at Caliente on Saturday. The dates could be pushed back to Thursday and Sunday.
The Xolos, who have lost just once in 19 Apertura matches, survived a shot off the post and another shot that defender Joshua Abrego had to clear off the goal line and were denied a goal by Javier Gandolfi, waved off by an offside flag.
Francisco Bravo scored in the 69th minute and Juan Pablo Garcia in the 73rd to give Veracruz the margin it required to advance.
- PRIMERA DIVISION
SEMIFINALS, SECOND LEG
Santos Laguna 3 (Quintero 2, 61, C. Benitez 75), America 3 (V. Sanchez 60, Vuoso 66, E. Esqueda 85)
+ Santos Laguna advances on aggregate, 5-4
Monterrey 2 (Suazo 88, N. Cardozo 92+), Pumas UNAM 0
+ Monterrey advances on aggregate, 2-0
Monterrey vs. Santos Laguna
First leg: Thursday at Torreon, 6 p.m. PT
Second leg: Sunday at Monterrey, 4 p.m. PT
- LIGA DE ASCENSO
SEMIFINALS, SECOND LEG
Club Tijuana 0, Albinegros de Orizaba 0
+ 0-0 aggregate; Club Tijuana advances as higher seed
Veracruz 3 (A. Leyva 8, F. Bravo 69, J. Garcia 73), Irapuato 1 (L. Valdes 57)
+ 3-3 aggregate; Veracruz advances as higher seed
Club Tijuana vs. Veracruz
First leg: Wednesday at Veracruz, time TBA
Second leg: Saturday at Tijuana, 1 p.m.
UPDATE (8 p.m. Monday): The Liga de Ascenso final will be played Thursday and Sunday, with the first leg, at Veracruz, to start at 7 p.m. PT and the second leg, at Estadio Caliente in Tijuana, set for 1 p.m.
Note: Dates and times subject to change