Cruz Azul secures top seed in Mexican soccer's Apertura playoffs


Cruz Azul has clinched the top seed in the Mexican soccer league's Apertura 2018 playoffs with a 2-0 away win over Morelia in its final game of the regular season.

The first goal of Friday night's contest at Morelos Stadium in this western city came on a well-constructed play in the 68th minute.

Roberto Alvarado received a pass from Elias Hernandez on the left side, eluded one defender and delivered a cross to Martin Cauteruccio just before a second defender arrived.

The Uruguayan forward, who had alertly stayed in an onside position, calmly received the pass, maneuvered around oncoming goalkeeper Sebastian Sosa and slotted the ball home from close range.

The Mexico City club then doubled its lead six minutes later when Paraguayan defender Pablo Cesar Aguilar scored on a header off a corner kick by Hernandez.

Cruz Azul has 36 points after the win and a six-point lead over second-placed Club America, which will host Veracruz in its final regular-season game on Saturday.

La Maquina, which will now enter the eight-team playoffs as the top seed, is trying to end a 21-year drought without a league title and add to the hardware it won a month ago by capturing the Apertura 2018 Copa MX title late last month.

The loss, meanwhile, could end eighth-placed Morelia's Apertura campaign, since both Pachuca and Queretaro will have a chance to leapfrog the Monarcas on Saturday.

In one other game Friday night, two teams eliminated from playoff contention - Puebla and Tijuana - played to a scoreless draw.

Five games are on tap for Saturday: Queretaro-Necaxa, Pachuca-Leon, Club America-Veracruz, Guadalajara-Tigres UANL and Monterrey-Atlas.

The final two regular-season games of the Apertura 2018, the first of two championships in the 2018-2019 Liga MX season, will be played on Sunday: Pumas UNAM-Santos Laguna and Lobos BUAP-Toluca.

Five teams have already clinched playoff spots: Cruz Azul, Club America (30 points), Pumas UNAM (29), Santos Laguna (29) and Monterrey (27).

Five other teams - Tigres UANL (26), Toluca (26), Morelia (25), Pachuca (23) and Queretaro (23) - are in the running for the final three postseason berths.

The playoffs will kick off on Nov. 28.

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