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MEXICO: Tijuana's loss a promotion preview?

Club Tijuana loses so rarely that every defeat is unexpected, except perhaps Saturday's at Irapuato.

The Strawberry Lashers (8-2-3), along with second-place Leon, have been the class of the second-tier Liga de Ascenso since the Clausura kicked off in January, and their 2-0 triumph over the Xolos -- on two Cuauhtemoc Blanco strikes -- kept them two points clear atop the standings, five ahead of third-place Atlante Neza and 10 above the playoff line.

Expect a rematch, possibly in the Clausura final and more likely in the promotion final. Tijuana, as winner of the (fall) Apertura title, is already in the final series and will play the Clausura winner for a spot in the Primera Division. Irapuato just missed out on an Apertura title-series showdown with the Xolos in December, losing to Veracruz in the semifinals after conceding twice in five minutes near the end of the second leg.

Saturday's victory was Irapuato's fourth in a row, fifth in six games and left it 6-1-1 in the last eight. Tijuana (5-2-5), which had San Diego's Joe Corona on one wing, had won its previous four and was unbeaten in 10, since a 1-0 surprise at Altamira in its Jan. 21 Clausura opener. The Xolos fell from third to sixth in the standings.

Tijuana's other loss since July? At Indios de Ciudad Juarez, 1-0, back on Nov. 6. The Xoloitzcuintles' overall record, playoff games included: 18-3-12.

MORE LIGA: Leon (7-1-4) kept pace with Irapuato, rallying to beat bottom-feeding Lobos BUAP, 3-2, on Alejandro Corona's 83rd-minute goal. Texan Marco Vidal was in midfield for the Esmeraldas, who have one game in hand. Irapuato's bye is next week. … 2007 Major League Soccer MVP Luciano Emilio scored the winner as Atlante Neza topped visiting Indios de Ciudad Juarez, 3-1, to vault from fifth to third. … Ismael Valadez scored both goals for Correcaminos (6-4-2), who climbed to fifth by beating Altamira, 2-1. It was just the second victory in seven games for UAT, which had lost three of its previous four.

THIS WEEK: The Primera Division, which took the week off for the FIFA fixture dates (Mexico beat Paraguay, 2-0, Saturday in Oakland, plays Venezuela on Tuesday in San Diego), resumes Friday with Guadalajara visiting Necaxa, a most crucial match for Chivas' playoff hopes.

The Goats (3-2-6) are ninth overall but seldom win (just seven since the full season kicked off in July, none back-to-back). Necaxa's surge ended a month ago, and three straight shutouts (the last two losses) have all but scuttled the Rayos' bid to avoid relegation.

The week's biggest showdown: Atlante (5-5-1), which reached the top spot in Group 2 (and sixth overall) with nine goals in successive wins over Pachuca and Jaguares, faces off Saturday at Group 1 leader UANL Tigres (5-1-5), who have conceded just five goals but scored just once, on a penalty kick, in their last three games.

Also of note: Toluca (4-4-3), just outside the playoff zone, is home Sunday against Monterrey (6-4-1), fifth overall. It's a meeting of the last three Primera champions -- Toluca won the Clausura last year; the Rayados have captured the past two Aperturas -- and the third showdown in six weeks. Monterrey won both CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal legs, 1-0 and 1-0.

  • PRIMERA DIVISION

Last week's results (home teams listed first)

No games scheduled

Standings

Group 1: UANL Tigres 20 points, Monterrey 19, Guadalajara 15, Estudiantes Tecos 13, Necaxa 11, Santos Laguna 10

Group 2: Atlante 16, San Luis 16, America 16, Toluca 15, Atlas 15, Pachuca 10

Group 3: Pumas UNAM 25, Morelia 21, Cruz Azul 21, Puebla 13, Gallos Blancos de Queretaro 11, Jaguares de Chaiapas 8

Overall (top 8): 1. Pumas UNAM 25 (+12 goal difference); 2. Morelia 21 (+8); 3. Cruz Azul 21 (+8); 4. UANL Tigres 20 (+8); 5. Monterrey 19 (+5); 6. Atlante 16 (+7); 7. San Luis 16 (+2); 8. America 16 (+1). Playoffs: If season ended now, top eight would qualify

Relegation percentage: 1. Necaxa (28 games/27 points) 0.9643; 2. Gallos Blancos (62/69) 1.1129; 3. Jaguares (96/110) 1.1458; 4. Atlas (96/113) 1.1771; 5. Atlante (96/115) 1.1979

This week's games (all times Pacific)

Friday

Guadalajara at Necaxa, 7:10 p.m.

Saturday

Pumas UNAM at Jaguares, 4 p.m.

San Luis at Gallos Blancos, 4 p.m.

Atlante at UANL Tigres, 6 p.m.

Cruz Azul at Santos Laguna, 6 p.m.

Estudiantes Tecos at Atlas, 7:45 p.m.

Sunday

Monterrey at Toluca, 10 a.m.

Pachuca at Morelia, 10 a.m.

Puebla at America, 2 p.m.

Schedule subject to change

LEADING SCORERS

Clausura

1. Wilmer Aguirre (San Luis) 7

Christian Bermudez (Atlante) 7

Rafael Marquez Lugo (Morelia) 7

Emanuel Villa (Cruz Azul) 7

5. Hector Mancilla (UANL Tigres) 6

Angel Reyna (America) 6

7. Juan Carlos Cacho (Pumas UNAM) 5

Mauro Cejas (Estudiantes Tecos) 5

Humberto Suazo (Monterrey) 5

Erick Torres (Guadalajara) 5

Matias Vuoso (America) 5

Apertura/Clausura

1. Christian Benitez (Santos) 19

Humberto Suazo (Monterrey) 19

3. Matias Vuoso (America) 15

4. Mauro Cejas (Estudiantes Tecos) 12

Emanuel Villa (Cruz Azul) 12

6. Christian Gimenez (Cruz Azul) 11

Hector Mancilla (Toluca/UANL Tigres) 11

Miguel Sabah (Morelia) 11

9. Wilmer Aguirre (San Luis) 10

Juan Carlos Cacho (Pumas UNAM) 10

Aldo de Nigris (Monterrey) 10

Johan Fano (Atlante) 10

OTHER GAMES

Copa Libertadores standings

Group 1: Libertad (Paraguay) 11 points, Universidad San Martin (Peru) 6, San Luis 5, Once Caldas (Colombia) 4

Group 3: Argentinos Juniors (Argentina) 7, America 6, Fluminense (Brazil) 5, Nacional (Uruguay) 4

Group 6: Internacional (Brazil) 7, Emelec (Ecuador) 7, Jaguares 6, Jorge Wilstermann (Bolivia) 0

  • LIGA DE ASCENSO

Last week's games (home teams listed first)

Friday

Correcaminos 2 (I. Valadez 13, 16), Altamira 1 (F. Gonzalez 57)

Saturday

La Piedad 1 (Charles 11), Veracruz 1 (M. Romero 79)

Pumas Morelos 1 (H. Gonzalez 65), Leones Negros 0

Albinegros de Orizaba 2 (C. Vela 11, E. Dos Santos 78), Dorados de Sinaloa 3 (A. Mercado 21, R. Prieto 58, J. Castro 86)

Irapuato 2 (C. Blanco 29, 33), Club Tijuana 0

Alacranes de Durango 1 (E. Rios 92+), Merida 1 (E. Jaramilo 38)

Sunday

Atlante Neza 3 (D. Mejia 21, Luciano Emilio 58, H. Ruiz 88), Indios de Ciudad Juarez 1 (E. Borboa 11)

Lobos BUAP 2 (M. Castillo 15, 61), Leon 3 (H. Gimenez 33, E. Brambila 38, A. Corona 83)

Idle: Cruz Azul Hidalgo

Standings

1. Irapuato 27 points; 2. Leon 25; 3. Atlante Neza 22; 4. Veracruz 21; 5. Correcaminos 20; 6. Club Tijuana 20; 7. Cruz Azul Hidalgo 17; 8. Dorados 17; 9. Altamira 17; 10. Pumas Morelos 16; 11. Leones Negros 13; 12. Albinegros 13; 13. Alacranes 11; 14. La Piedad 11; 15. Indios 11; 16. Merida 9; 17. Lobos BUAP 6

This week's games (all times Pacific)

Wednesday

Pumas Morelos at Merida, 7 p.m.

Friday

Cruz Azul Hidalgo at Altamira, 6 p.m.

Irapuato at Leones Negros, 7:45 p.m.

Saturday

La Piedad at Indios, 5 p.m.

Alacranes at Veracruz, 6 p.m.

Albinegros at Merida, 6:45 p.m.

Correcaminos at Leon, 7 p.m.

Lobos BUAP at Dorados, 7 p.m.

Sunday

Atlante Neza at Club Tijuana, 1 p.m.

Idle: Pumas Morelos

Schedule subject to change

LEADING SCORERS

Clausura

1. Ariel Gonzalez (Irapuato) 12

2. Blas Perez (Leon) 9

Roberto Saucedo (Correcaminos) 9

4. Jair Garcia (Cruz Azul Hidalgo) 8

5. Juan Manuel Sara (Lobos BUAP) 7

6. Mauricio Romero (Veracruz) 6

7. Miler Castillo (Lobos BUAP) 5

Raul Enriquez (Club Tijuana) 5

9. Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Irapuato) 4

Edwin Borboa (Indios de Ciudad Juarez) 4

Eder Pacheco (Veracruz) 4

Edgar Garcia (Alacranes de Durango) 4

Eduardo Herrera (Pumas Morelos) 4

Rodrigo Prieto (Dorados de Sinaloa) 4

Pablo Torres (Merida) 4

Apertura/Clausura

1. Eder Pacheco (Alacranes/Veracruz) 20

2. Ariel Gonzalez (Irapuato) 18

Juan Manuel Sara (Lobos BUAP) 18

4. Blas Perez (Leon) 14

5. Mauricio Romero (Veracruz) 13

6. Roberto Nurse (Cruz Azul Hidalgo) 12

Miguel Zepeda (Leones Negros) 12

8. Raul Enrique (Club Tijuana) 11

9. Juan Manuel Cavallo (Albinegros) 10

Jair Garcia (Cruz Azul Hidalgo) 10

Roberto Saucedo (Correcaminos) 10