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Mar 26, 2013

Egypt wins before 10,000 home fans

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt -- Egypt beat Zimbabwe 2-1 in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday, with Mohamed Aboutrika's penalty kick in the 88th minute rewarding the 10,000 fans allowed in to watch a Pharoahs home game for the first time in over a year.

Aboutrika delivered Egypt's third win in three games in Group G, bringing the Pharoahs a step closer to their first World Cup appearance in 20 years. The 10 group winners will advance to playoffs to determine Africa's five spots for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and Egypt -- coached by former U.S. coach Bob Bradley -- looks set to be one of those teams, despite the political turbulence and violence that still fractures the country.

Fans had not been allowed at an Egypt home game since riots at a stadium in Port Said over a year ago, when more than 70 people were killed in clashes at a league game, and security was tight for Tuesday's match. Roads leading to the stadium in the Mediterranean city were sealed off, and only ticket-holding fans were allowed beyond certain points. Riot police surrounded the outer edges of the fields while soldiers patrolled inside and outside the stadium.

More than 70,000 seats were empty after Egyptian authorities decided to limit the crowd to 10,000. But the atmosphere in the stadium was still vibrant, and the Pharoahs did not disappoint.

Midfielder Hosny Abd Rabo gave Egypt the lead with a free kick in the 65th minute. Knowledge Musona equalized for Zimbabwe in the 75th with a fantastic goal, shrugging off his marker and shooting into the top corner from 25 yards out.

But Aboutrika made certain the historic return of supporters was marked with a victory, converting the penalty kick after substitute Ahmed Gaafar was fouled by Augustine Mbara inside the area.

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