All-Whites score late, rescue point from tough Slovakians

NZ Leave It Late

The draw leaves Group F in a stalemate after Italy and Paraguay tallied the same result on Monday.

The defender nodded home the equalizer three minutes into stoppage time after Slovakia had paced a second-half lead through Robert Vittek and looked poised to take all three points.

The tying goal came after Reid ran onto Shane Smeltz's hopeful cross from the left flank, meeting the serve at the far post from eight yards out and blasting a header beyond goalkeeper Dusan Kuciak.

The goal sparked wild celebrations from the All-Whites, who matched their European counterparts consistently throughout the game but had struggled to break through the tough Slovakian defense.

Slovakia earned the second-half advantage five minutes after the restart with a goal almost identical to New Zealand's.

After a neat combination play between Vladimir Weiss and Stanislav Sestak along the right wing, Weiss whipped in a pacey ball to the far post. Vittek then beat his marker at the edge of the 6-yard box before heading home the Slovakian's first-ever World Cup goal.

Weiss led the Slovakia attack on numerous occasions, and proved to be a pest to the New Zealand back line throughout the 90 minutes.

However, the European side earned the right to go ahead having played organized defense that dealt well with New Zealand's route-one style. The All-Whites found most penetration via former San Jose Earthquakesmidfielder Simon Elliott, who served a plethora long balls, corner kicks and free kicks into the Slovakia area. However, the Slovakia back line, led by Liverpool's Martin Skrtel, were equal to the pressure.

And the Fighting Jondas should have doubled their lead on a breakaway in the 69th minute, but they were unable to take advantage of a four-on-three situation as Reid tracked back to stymie the attack.

All told, the Kiwis' defense—led by former New England Revolution center back Ryan Nelsen—were largely solid and provided a sturdy backdrop to their organized midfield.

Group F play continues on Sunday when Slovakia takes on Paraguay and New Zealand face World Champions Italy.

Scoring Summary

SVK: Robert Vittek, 50th minute

NZL: Winston Reid, 94th minute

Starting lineups

New Zealand: Mark Paston, Winston Reid, Ryan Nelsen, Ivan Vicelich (Jeremy Christie), Tommy Smith, Chris Killen (Chris Woods), Tony Lochhead, Simon Elliott, Leo Bertos, Shane Smeltz, Rory Fallon

Subs not used: Glen Moss, James Bannatyne, Andrew Boyens, Ben Sigmund, Michael McGlinchey, Andy Barron, Aaron Clapham, Dave Mulligan, Jeremy Brockie

Slovakia: Dusan Kuciak, Martin Skrtel, Jan Durica, Radoslav Zabavnik, Marek Cech, Vladimir Weiss (Juraj Kucka), Stanislav Sestak (Filip Hološko), Zdeno Strba, Marek Hamsik, Erik Jendrisek, Robert Vittek (Miroslav Stoch)

Subs not used: Jan Mucha, Kornel Salata, Martin Petras, Dusan Pernis, Peter Pekarik, Jan Kozak, Kamil Kopunek, Marek Sapara, Martin Jakubko

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