Sunday, April 21, 2024

Reid rescues Kiwis


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RUSTENBURG – Winston Reid headed in an injury-time goal yesterday to give New Zealand a 1-1 draw with Slovakia at the World Cup.Shane Smeltz crossed the ball for Reid to head in at the near post, giving New Zealand their first point at a World Cup after going winless in their debut in 1982.“It probably was the most important goal of my life,” Reid said. “I didn’t see the ball until late. I knew that if I got it on target and didn’t hit it too hard, I could just guide it in.”Robert Vittek had given Slovakia the lead in the 50th minute, heading in a cross from Stanislav Sestak after Reid let him move free.“Tonight’s a special night for me, I couldn’t be any prouder,” said New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert, who turned to Kiwi fans in the bleachers and pumped his arms in celebration after the late leveller.“I thought the opening game was a good chance to get something and I would have been disappointed with a loss after conceding a goal like that,” Herbert said. “But we kept coming, the boys kept coming.”Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss, who is leading his country in their first international tournament since Czechoslovakia divided in 1993, said his players were deflated after surrendering their lead.“This is a minor sporting tragedy for us,” Weiss said. “We were the better team over the game. It’s a pity we didn’t take our chances.”All four teams have one point in Group F. Italy and Paraguay drew 1-1 Monday.Both New Zealand and Slovakia are regarded as outsiders in South Africa, and after yesterday’s ragged performance, they will both struggle against their group rivals.“We still have two heavyweights to go and they will be tough,” Herbert said. “It was a strong performance today. I think we showed the kind of football we play now is conducive to results.”Slovakia, who upset the Czech Republic and Poland in qualifying, was the more polished team and created most of the game’s scoring chances.New Zealand’s tight man-to-man marking choked Slovakia’s disjointed attempts to move forward in the early stages, while the tall Kiwi strikers menaced the Slovakian defence but struggled to create clear opportunities. (AP)


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