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MONTERREY, Mexico - Neri Cardozo assured Monterrey of a trip to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, scoring in the 88th minute to give "Los Rayados" a 1-0 victory over Toluca on Wednesday and complete a 2-0 aggregate win.
Monterrey, which won the first leg 1-0 last week at Toluca, will host fellow Mexican side Cruz Azul in the first leg of the semifinals on March 16, seeking a first-ever trip to the confederation club championship finals.
Toluca was eliminated in the knockout round for the second straight year, being eliminated by eventual champion Pachuca in 2010 in the semifinals.
After being frustrated for nearly the entire match, Monterrey finally solved the Toluca defense with Aldo De Nigris feeding Cardozo.
The Argentinean midfielder took one touch at the top of the area, sprinted past Toluca defender Osvaldo Gonzalez down the left side and hit a low strike across goal past keeper Alfredo Talavera.
Monterrey keeper Jonathan Orozco faced relatively little danger, and posted his third shutout in four games.
Emmanuel Cerda had Toluca's most dangerous moment, having his chance from 10 meters blocked by a sliding Jose Maria Basanta in the 15th minute.
Monterrey had most of the play, making Talavera scramble at times to keep the game goalless.
Toluca's chances took a blow in the 18th minute when defender Carlos Galeana had to leave the game with an injury. Galeana was challenging Jesus Eduardo Zavala at midfield for a ball when his right knee buckled underneath him and he had to be carried from the field on a stretcher.
Already facing a one-goal deficit and a six-game winless streak away from home in the Champions League, Toluca struggled to produce anything offensively.
Although using eight of 11 starters from Sunday's 4-3 loss to America in the Mexican Clausura -- including leading scorers Nestor Calderon and Jaimen Ayovi, Toluca manager Sergio Lugo Barron chose not to utilize Antonio "Zinha" Naelson.
By the 77th minute, he had replaced both Calderon and Ayovi and was without a single striker.
Monterrey made only two changes from its Saturday loss to Atlas and had the better of possession and chances.
Talavera had to leap off his line in the 48th to punch away a loose ball to keep De Nigris from connecting and, he thwarted Osvaldo Martinez in the 71st at the right post.
Real Salt Lake will play the winner between Olimpia and Saprissa, who will decide the remaining semifinalist when they square off in their second leg Thursday night.