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Cruz Azul steal point in Venezuela

© Reuters 2002

MERIDA, Venezuela, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Mexico's Cruz Azul began the qualifiers for next year's South American Libertadores Cup by picking up a valuable point in Venezuela with a 1-1 draw against Estudiantes de Merida.

Mexican international goalkeeper Oscar Perez was Cruz Azul's most important player, keeping the Estudiantes attack at bay as the home team pressed for a late winner.

Miguel Zepeda gave Cruz Azul, who were beaten finalists in the 2001 competition, the lead in the 34th minute when he took advantage of a poor clearance by the Estudiantes defence.

Leonel Vielma equalised from the penalty spot in the 69th minute after a foul on substitute Luciano Roque.

Mexican clubs take part in the South American cup by invitation but first have to play a qualifying tournament against two teams from Venezuela, which is considered to be the continent's weakest footballing nation.

Estudiantes lead the group with four points from two games, followed by Mexico's UNAM who have three.

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