CAIRO: Mohamed Abou-Trika s first-half goal helped Egypt claim a precious 1-0 victory over DR Congo in Kinshasa as the Pharaohs virtually booked their place in the World Cup qualifiers second stage.
The classy playmaker scored the winner in the 31st minute to ease the worries of Egyptian fans, who feared the national team could suffer a disastrous exit.
Egypt are in charge of the group with 12 points, three clear of DR Congo and Malawi with one match to go.
Egypt have an easy against Djibouti, who are yet to bag a single point, at Cairo stadium in their last group game.
Egypt played with their traditional 3-5-2 formation as coach Hassan Shehata was widely criticized for changing that system in the embarrassing 4-0 friendly defeat to Sudan.
Ahmed “Mido Hossam started on the bench due to slight injury. Emad Meteb filled in for him to partner with Amr Zaki upfront.
Ahly playmaker Abou-Trika, who has regained full fitness lately, supported the striking duo.
Egypt managed to mount a serious threat on the host s goal while maintaining their defensive solidity in the first half.
The visitors had the first chance after eight minutes when Ahmed Al-Mohammadi darted down the right flank before providing a neat cross but Meteb failed to get on the end of it.
DR Congo were dealt a major blow shortly after when striker Lomana LuaLua limped off the pitch due to injury.
LuaLua, who was unlikely to take part in the match because of a thigh injury, was subsequently substituted.
Abou-Trika deservedly put Egypt ahead in the 31st minute after being set-up by the impressive Zaki.
Wigan Athletic striker Zaki robbed a defender on the edge of the area but the ball slipped to a fellow Congolese.
But the determined frontman repossessed the ball and passed it to Abou-Treika, who went one-on-one before chipping the ball over the keeper and into the net.
Egypt s strategy to keep their lead intact was highly successful in the second period.
The six-time African champions kept DR Congo forwards at bay while launching numerous counter attacks.
Zaki was unlucky not to double Egypt s advantage five minutes after restart when his brilliant bicycle kick cannoned off the woodwork.
DR Congo were restricted to some harmless long-range shots, but they wasted a clear-cut opportunity that could have given them a valuable draw.
A rare lapse of concentration in Egypt s defense allowed Kosi Saka to go clear on goal but goalkeeper Essam Al-Hadari rushed out to block his effort.
The evergreen Zaki came close to scoring the second late in the game but his efforts were thwarted by DR Congo keeper.