MEXICO: Monterrey rallies for Apertura title

Monterrey needed every bit of its home-field advantage to claim its fourth Mexican Primera Division championship Sunday. The big winners: Chilean forward Humberto Suazo and coach Victor Manuel Vucetich.

Suazo netted his 14th and 15th goals of the Apertura as the Rayados romped, 3-0, past Santos Laguna in the second leg of the final. Vucetich won his 10th trophy and his fifth title in the top-tier league.

Monterrey, which also won the fall Apertura last year, posted a 5-3 aggregate triumph, rallying after Santos pulled out a 3-2 victory at home in Thursday's first leg on a late Duilio Davino own goal.

“Monterrey is a great club” Vucetich, who sandwiched last January's InterLiga title at Home Depot Center and the best regular-season record in last spring's “Bicentenario” Clausura tournament between the Apertura titles, declared to the Mexican media afterward. “It is an institution that in the last 10 years has countless achievements.”

Club Tijuana also won a trophy Sunday, claiming the second-tier Liga de Ascenso title with a 3-0 aggregate victory over Veracruz.

Vucetich, who earlier this fall pulled out of consideration to be Mexico's national team coach, has won first-division titles with Leon (1992-93), UAG Tecos (1993-94), Pachuca (Apertura 2003) and the pair with Monterrey. He also won Segunda Division championships with Potros Neza (1988-89) and Leon (1989-90), and the defunct Copa Mexico with UANL Tigres (1995-96) and Cruz Azul (1996-97).

Suazo gave the Rayados a 29th-minute lead, hammering a return pass from Aldo de Nigris inside the left post from 22 yards after a nice passing sequence, and he finished off the rout with a weaving run and chip past 2006 Mexico World Cup goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez in the 86th minute.

Suazo, who played a major role in Chile's run the the round of 16 at the World Cup in South Africa, might have had a hat trick: He blasted off the crossbar in the fourth minute and forced Sanchez to make a point-blank save two minutes later.

He netted a third, knocking the ball out of Sanchez's hands and firing into the open net moments afterward, but referee Benito Armando Archundia waved it off.

Jose Maria Basanta scored the pivotal goal, giving Monterrey the lead on aggregate by stepping in front of Santos defender Felipe Baloy to nod home Neri Cardozo's corner kick in the 72nd.

Santos also lost in the Clausura final last May, falling to Toluca on penalties, and Argentine coach Ruben Omar Romano became Mexico's version of Bud Grant or Marv Levy -- losing his fourth final, a Primera Division record.

TIJUANA CLAIM ASCENSO CROWN: Club Tijuana is 180 minutes -- and about six months -- from the Primera Division.

The Xoloitzcuintles won the second-tier Liga de Ascenso's Apertura title Sunday with a 1-0 victory over Veracruz at Estadio Caliente, completing a 3-0 aggregate victory in the home-and-home final. Raul Enriquez scored in the 55th minute, his team-best sixth goal of the campaign.

Tijuana will face the winner of the spring Clausura, which kicks off next month, in a two-leg promotion final, with the winner claiming a berth in the top-tier league. The Xolos would advance automatically if they win the Clausura. (One more hurdle: Caliente would have to be approved as a Primera Division facility, and club owners say it meets the standards.)

Defense was again key for Tijuana (13-1-7, including postseason), which closed the campaign with five successive shutouts and conceded nothing in its four playoff games. The Xolos had 14 shutouts in 21 games, never allowed more than one goal in any game, and went 8-0-3 at Caliente, surrendering just two goals.



First leg, Thursday

Santos Laguna 3 (I. Estrada 23, C. Quintero 42, og Davino 86), Monterrey 2 (Suazo 38, N. Cardozo 55)

Second leg, Sunday

Monterrey 3 (Suazo 29, 86, Basanta 72), Santos Laguna 0

+ Monterrey wins on aggregate, 5-3


First leg, Thursday

Veracruz 0, Club Tijuana 2 (Gerk 35, Gandolfi 38)

Second leg, Sunday

Club Tijuana 1 (R. Enriquez 55), Veracruz 0

+ Club Tijuana wins on aggregate, 3-0