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Wednesday, May 18, 2011
MEXICO: Tijuana strides toward Primera

By Scott French

Club Tijuana's second game in Irapuato went much better than the first.

The Xolos, fighting for a berth in the Primera Division, took Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Co. through 90 scoreless minutes Wednesday night, giving them the upper hand when the Liga de Ascenso's promotion final wraps up Saturday afternoon at Estadio Caliente in Tijuana.

Goalkeeper Leonin Pineda was masterful almost to the end, and Javier Gandolfi marshaled a superb defensive effort for the Xolos, who were forced into the promotion series after losing to Irapuato in last week's two-legged spring Clausura final. La Trinca, or the Strawberry Lashers, captured the title with a 1-0 home victory.

Tijuana captured the fall Apertura championship and would have automatically won promotion to the top league, to join the likes of Guadalajara, America, Cruz Azul and Monterrey, had it pipped Irapuato for the Clausura crown. A victory at home Saturday will send them up.

Irapuato was the protagonist most of the night, testing the Xoloitzcuintles' defense primarily through forward Ariel Gonzalez in the first half and the legendary Blanco after halftime. Pineda came up big on a few occasions, and Margarito Gonzalez cracked a shot off the left post. Pineda's only error came at the finish, in the fourth minute of stoppage, when a free kick into the box went through his hands. A defender headed it from danger.

CLAUSURA FINAL, FIRST LEG
Thursday

Pumas UNAM at Morelia, 6:30 p.m.

CLAUSURA FINAL, SECOND LEG
Sunday
Morelia at Pumas UNAM, 10 a.m.

PROMOTION FINAL, FIRST LEG
Wednesday

Irapuato 0, Club Tijuana 0

PROMOTION FINAL, SECOND LEG
Saturday
Irapuato at Club Tijuana, 1 p.m.

QUARTERFINALS, SECOND LEG
Thursday

Jaguares (Mexico) at Cerro Porteņo (Paraguay), 6:30 p.m.
Note: First leg was 1-1 draw

All times Pacific