World champions Germany and the champions from FIFA's six confederations are competing in the two-week tournament that will allow Russian Federation to test its soccer infrastructure in four of the 11 cities hosting World Cup matches.
Midfielder Denis Glushakov flicked the ball over goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic in the 31st minute as New Zealand defenders rushed back to try to clear it off the line.
The new football arena in St. Petersburg is hosting the opening and final matches of the Confederations Cup, also dubbed as the Tournament of Champions.
Federation Internationale de Football Association general secretary Fatma Samoura said on Friday that the estimated attendance for the tournament would be 65 percent, and that Russia's match against European champions Portugal had been sold out for weeks.
Host Russia were clearly the better side as they missed a handful of chances, but the three points was all that matters. "It allowed us to play", Cherchesov said.
Instead it was their Kiwi opponents who spent the large majority of the 90 minutes under the pump, Russian Federation scoring once in each half and creating numerous other opportunities as the All Whites were forced to continuously scramble in defence and survive on scraps in attack.
The hosts had a positive start to the tournament which serves as a test run of facilities ahead of the FIFA World Cup to be hosted them in 2018.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and FIFA President Gianni Infantino officially opened the tournament.
"When the president of your country comes out to make a speech this mobilizes us", said coach Stanislav Cherchesov, a former goalkeeper who played for the national team before and after the fall of communism.
Michael Boxall, left, and Tommy Smith are too late to prevent Russian Federation taking a lead in the first half.
"I believe we will have the same team as we did in this game against Portugal". They're going to be a team to keep a close eye on in the Confederations Cup, because it looks possible that New Zealand will be in the World Cup next summer, as well.
It helped the Russian team to seize the lead after twice having shots stopped on the line.
Smolov had an effort ruled out for offside before the opening goal arrived just after the half-hour mark. The president prefers ice hockey and saw a team that carried fervent hopes of an Olympic title lose on home ice in the quarterfinals at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Russian authorities said the Confederations Cup's ticketing system, which requires ticket holders to apply for a personalised fan-ID, ensures that fans are screened and trouble makers are kept away.