BAGHDAD—Thousands of antigovern­ment protesters in Iraq’s capital city celebrated with fireworks a 2-1 win over Iran in a muchantici­pated World Cup qualifying match, hoping it would return momentum to their movement that has been hit by a deadly security crackdown.

Crowds watched the game Thursday on a large screen in Baghdad’s main Tahrir Square, the epicenter of demonstrat­ions that have called for the overturnin­g of Iraq’s sectarian system and Iranian political influence. Some carried Iraqi flags and chanted “Iran, out!”

Iraq had been due to play two home games in the southern city of Basra against Iran and Bahrain in November, but the oil-rich city has been caught up in the anti-government protests that have gripped Baghdad and the mainly Shiite southern provinces since October 1.

But the internatio­nal soccer federation, which had recently lifted a three-decade ban on Iraq to host internatio­nal matches, requested an alternativ­e venue for security reasons amid the unrest. The Iraqi football associatio­n chose Amman.

Fireworks streamed into the sky when Iraq’s national team scored its first goal 11 minutes into Thursday’s game. Jubilant protesters danced, beat drums and chanted after another goal, scored just minutes before the end of the match, gave Iraq the win.

“This victory will give us more motivation to implement our demands,” said Ammar Hassan, carrying an Iraqi flag.

Several protesters told The Associated Press they hoped the win over Iran would inspire higher turnout after a recent security crackdown caused demonstrat­or numbers to dwindle. AP

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