Soccer-Santos win Mexican title one year after escaping drop

MEXICO CITY, June 1 (Reuters) - Santos Laguna won the Mexican championship on Sunday, drawing 1-1 with Cruz Azul to clinch the title a year after barely escaping relegation.

Santos, from the northern desert city of Torreon, won the two-leg final 3-2 on aggregate to clinch their third championship and extend Cruz Azul’s title drought.

The Mexico City team, considered one of Mexico’s four biggest clubs, won the last of their eight championships in 1997.

Last year, Santos Laguna escaped relegation on the last day of the season -- with a 2-0 win over Cruz Azul.

Santos, 2-1 ahead from the first leg, got off to an excellent start when Argentine midfielder Daniel Luduena picked up a rebound outside the area and fired into the top corner in the 17th minute.

Ecuador forward Christian Benitez was close to a second when he hit the post.

But Santos had to endure a nerve-wracking finale after Jaime Lozano turned Gerardo Torrado’s free kick into the net in the 83rd minute.

Coach Daniel Guzman, who in the last five years has helped save Atlas, Tecos UAG and Santos from relegation, was delighted to be involved in a final for a change.

“I’ve topped off five years of saving teams from relegation by winning the championship, nothing compares to this, I’ve dreamed of this moment,” he told reporters. (Reporting by Carlos Calvo; Editing by Peter Rutherford)