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All Whites snatch historic draw

A stoppage time equaliser by defender Winston Reid saw New Zealand claim their first ever World Cup point courtesy of a 1-1 draw with Slovakia.


The All Whites, who lost all three matches in their only other finals appearance in 1982, looked destined for defeat after Robert Vittek had headed Slovakia into a 50th-minute lead in the Group F match.

But three minutes into injury time, Reid popped up at the back post to head Shane Smeltz’s cross in off the post to deny Slovakia victory in their first World Cup match as an independent nation.

New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert hailed the point as the greatest result in the rugby-mad country’s football history.

“We came across with the intention to make a difference and we certainly did that against a highly rated team,” said Herbert, who played in Spain 28 years ago. “We are very, very proud.

You would have to say this is our best ever result. We have never picked up a point in a World Cup before.

We have come and thrown some extremely good punches and got what I thought was a fully deserved result.”

The draw was indeed no more than New Zealand deserved from a scrappy encounter in which Slovakia did little that will worry group rivals Italy or Paraguay, who also drew 1-1 when they met on Monday.

Vittek admitted the draw felt more like a defeat. “It is so disappointing to lose a goal in the 94th minute,” Vittek said.

“It is just a nightmare. We could have had three points and at the end it felt like we have lost the match.”

Head coach Vladimir Weiss described the late equaliser as a “small sporting tragedy for us.”

“During the match we were the better team, it is just a pity we did not take the opportunities we had,” he said.

“The mood in the dressing room is very sad but that is football. We have to cope with the sadness and I hope we will perform well in the next match.”

With Slovakia struggling to get their passing game going in cold, windy conditions, it was the All Whites who had the better of the chances with both Chris Killen and Smeltz failing to take good chances before Reid found the net.

Twenty minutes had elapsed before Slovakia produced a moment of menace, captain Marek Hamsik curling a shot beyond the far post.

Gradually they began to assert themselves and, after being played into the box by the lively Vladimir Weiss, Stanislav Sestak toe-poked a shot inches wide of Mark Paston’s left-hand upright.

Paston, who had already flapped hesitantly at one cross, was fortunate to escape unpunished after completely missing the ball as he attempted to punt the ball clear from the left edge of his box.

Hamsik’s dipping shot had to palmed over by Paston just before halftime and, five minutes after the restart, the Slovakians broke the deadlock.

Sestak whipped in a cross and Vittek, who may have been fractionally offside, got away from Reid to send a header beyond Paston and into the bottom corner.

Vittek should have made it two at the end of a sweeping counterattack with 20 minutes left, only to be frustrated by Reid’s full-stretch block.

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