World Cup Recap - New Zealand vs. Slovakia|
(Tuesday, June 15th)
Final Score: New Zealand 1, Slovakia 1
Rustenburg, South Africa (Sports Network) - Winston Reid scored three minutes
into stoppage time and New Zealand earned a dramatic 1-1 draw against Slovakia
on Tuesday in the FIFA World Cup Group F action at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
Robert Vittek scored early in the second half for Slovakia, but Reid responded
in the dying seconds to deny the Slovakians a win in their World Cup debut.
New Zealand, which lost all three games in its only other World Cup appearance
in 1982, earned its first-ever point in the tournament.
"This is a wonderful, magnificent moment for football in New Zealand," New
Zealand striker Rory Fallon said. "We never stopped believing in ourselves,
even with only 10 minutes to go. We missed a great chance, but we knew we'd
get another before the end. It's unbelievable, and I think football now has a
decent chance of becoming the most popular sport back home."
New Zealand created the first chance inside five minutes, but Chris Killen had
his header saved by Slovakia goalie Jan Mucha. The All Whites continued to put
pressure on Slovakia in the opening 20 minutes, but failed to threaten again.
Slovakia settled in after Vladimir Weiss and Stanislav Sestak worked a passing
combination to set up a shot for Sestak, who fired wide right to waste an open
look in the 25th minute.
Vittek latched onto a poor clearance by New Zealand goalie Mark Paston minutes
later but failed to get a shot off with Paston scrambling back to his line. He
had another chance after another New Zealand turnover in the 35th minute, but
fired a 30-yard shot wide.
New Zealand responded to Vittek's miss, and Shane Smeltz forced Mucha into the
best save of the first half. Mucha got a small touch on the ball with his hand
to direct the shot just wide of the upper left and into the side netting.
Slovakia's Marek Hamsik closed the half with a speculative effort from outside
the area, but Paston was still forced to push the dipping ball over the bar in
the 43rd minute.
Vittek made up for his first-half misses less than five minutes after break,
as he finished off a cross from Sestak in the 50th minute. Weiss started the
play with a short pass on the right to Sestak, who swung a cross into the
Vittek ran under the cross near penalty spot and headed inside the left post
past a diving Paston for his 20th international goal.
"I'm delighted about scoring, but I'm obviously extremely disappointed too,
because we were so close to winning," Vittek said. "I think we deserved all
three points. We've put ourselves in an extremely difficult position, but we
need to forget about the points we've dropped today and simply move on."
Slovakia threatened again in 59th minute when Sestak set up another chance for
Vittek, but just as the shot left his foot, Reid slid in to deflect the ball.
The Slovakians continued to control the majority of the second half, with Rory
Fallon's poor effort in the 79th minute one of the few chances for New Zealand
after the break.
New Zealand created another chance in the 88th, but Smeltz turned a cross from
Tony Lochhead wide left from 12 yards, as Slovakia survived another scare.
Slovakia couldn't make it to the final whistle, though, as Smeltz sent a cross
from the right with pin-point accuracy to Reid in the middle of the area. Reid
headed the cross off the inside of the right post past a diving Mucha.
New Zealand and Slovakia moved even with Italy and Paraguay in Group F, as all
four teams remain level after the first round of matches. Italy opened defense
of its World Cup title Monday with a 1-1 tie against Paraguay.
Group F resumes Sunday, when Slovakia plays Paraguay and New Zealand plays the
06/15 13:00:33 ET