RUSTENBURG, June 15- A stoppage time equaliser by defender Winston Reid saw New Zealand claim the first World Cup point in their history with a 1-1 draw with Slovakia on Tuesday.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.
It was 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.
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 (twice) failing to take good chances before Reid found the net.
Middlesbrough’s Killen needed only five minutes to underline the threat he poses in the air, outjumping both centrebacks to meet Simon Elliott’s inswinging free-kick with a header that was directed straight at Slovakia’s goalkeeper Jan Mucha.
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.
Vittek then sent a long range effort wide before New Zealand’s best chance of the opening period fell to Smeltz. The forward’s strike from a tight angle was cleanly struck but Mucha’s touch was enough to deflect it into the side netting.
Hamsik’s dipping shot had to palmed over by Paston just before half-time and, five minutes after the restart, the Slovakians broke the deadlock.
Allowed time on the right, 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.
With three minutes left, Smeltz got above Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel only to steer his header wide. New Zealand’s last chance looked to have gone but Reid had other ideas.