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Diego Maradona's Dorados de Sinaloa reach Ascenso MX playoffs

Diego Maradona sat down with ESPN following his Dorados side's opening victory in Ascenso MX.

Diego Maradona's Dorados de Sinaloa defeated Venados FC 1-0 away on Friday evening to qualify for the Ascenso MX playoffs and complete a remarkable turnaround in the team's fortunes this 2018 Apertura.

The victory means the team, who were almost out of the playoff reckoning when the 58-year-old took over on Sept. 7, have won six of its seven games under Maradona and its last five consecutive matches.

Former U.S. youth international Fernando Arce Jr. netted the only goal of the game in the 72nd minute as Dorados moved up into sixth place in Mexico's second division and Maradona celebrated the win by dancing in the dressing room with his players .

Prior to Maradona's arrival, the team from Culiacan, Sinaloa had lost three and drawn the other three games in the Apertura regular season.

Maradona suffered a health scare and was widely condemned for his insensitive behavior at Russia 2018 and much of the commentary surrounding his appointment at Dorados centered on it being a publicity stunt, something the club denied.

"If I'd hired Diego because of his fame, I couldn't have paid [him]," Dorados president Jose Antonio Nunez told ESPN last month. "He is here because, in his words, this was the only genuine project in which he'd be involved on the pitch because he's making decisions."

"Diego isn't here to sell tickets. That's for the players I have," he added later. "[Diego] is here to coach."

Maradona turned 58 on Tuesday and partied in Culiacan with his family, girlfriend, Dorados directors and legendary Mexican boxer Julio Cesar Chavez.

Mexico's promotion rules mean Maradona's Dorados will need to win either the Apertura or next year's Clausura to qualify for the playoff series to decide which team will be promoted to Liga MX in May.

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