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New Zealand make history with 1-1 draw

By The Assam Tribune

RUSTENBURG, June 15 (DPA): New Zealand scored deep into stoppage time to earn their first ever World Cup football point with a 1-1 draw against Slovakia Tuesday.

A winning header from Slovak striker Robert Vittek in the 50th minute was matched by another successful header, this time from New Zealand's Winston Reid, in the dying instants of the match in Rustenburg.

The result, which follows Monday's 1-1 draw between reigning champions Italy and Paraguay, means total deadlock in Group F, with all four teams level pegging on both points and goal difference.

The draw also produced the first ever point for Slovakia as an independent nation at a World Cup. But that was of little consolation to a side that had been savouring the taste of victory until a few seconds before the final whistle.

In their only previous World Cup campaign, 1982 in Spain, New Zealand lost all of its three first round games.

Under sunny but cool conditions at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, New Zealand was quickest off the mark, with star player Chris Killen creating most of the chances during the opening minutes.

In the third, the Middlesbrough striker stole the ball in midfield and made a great run down the middle before firing high over the crossbar. A minute later, it was again Killen who created panic in Slovakia's area with a short-range header that was stopped with some difficulty by the Slovak goalkeeper.

But after their initial outburst, the low-ranking Kiwis began conceding more and more chances to the more skilled Slovaks, and particularly to their most talented player - Marek Hamsik.

In the 22nd, the Slovak captain sent a curling right-footer past the far post. Twenty minutes later, he had a well-aimed shot from outside the area tipped over the crossbar by New Zealand's Mark Paston.

In between, a great one-two combination between midfielder Vladimir Weiss and Stanislav Sestak saw the forward's powerful rifle finish inches wide.

In the 33rd, Paston almost handed Slovakia the victory on a golden plate with a misfired clearance that would have easily won the "Biggest World Cup Blunder" award. Mercifully, the goalkeeper made up for his mistake by preventing Vittek from making the most of it.

Slovakia finally got the opener they deserved five minutes into the second half, with Stanislav Sestak firing a cross from the right that Man of the Match Vittek skillfully headed into the back of the net.

The goal was a massive boost to the confidence of the Slovaks, who could have added to their tally on at least two occasions.

However, it was New Zealand that pulled the biggest surprise of the day, with Reid heading in a cross from eight yards.

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