India fought valiantly before conceding a late goal and losing 1-2 to three-time defending champions China in women's hockey at the 17th Asian Games, in Incheon, on Wednesday.
Barring the late blunder, the Indians matched their fancied opponents for the entire 60 minutes of the match to raise hopes of an upset result.
But it was not to be, as world No. 5 China scored a late winner through Yudiao Zhao, much to their relief.
China enjoyed an early share of the exchanges before world No. 13 India got a footing in the match towards the end of the first 15 minutes’ quarter.
After a barren first quarter, China took the lead in the 19th minute through a penalty-corner conversion by Meiyu Liang.
But the Indians hit back and restored parity four minutes later from a penalty stroke, perfectly converted by Jaspreet Kaur.
With both teams locked at 1-1 at half-time, the third quarter was expected to be a lively affair. India got the first scoring opportunity in the form of a penalty-corner, but failed to make the most of it.
The tussle between the teams continued in the fourth and final quarter and, in the 51st minute, goalkeeper Savita came to India’s rescue with a fine save from a penalty-corner.
The Indians, in fact, had a chance to register an upset when they earned their third penalty-corner with five-and-a-half minutes remaining in the match, but Jaspreet's effort went over the Chinese goal.
Just when it seemed the match was heading for a draw, which would have been a just result, Zhao caught the Indian defence off-guard and scored the winner in the 59th minute with a rasping shot from the top of the circle.
Even though Indian custodian Savita got a hand to the ball, she was unable to prevent Zhao's powerful shot entering the goal.
With two wins from as many games, China moved to the top of Pool A, while India are in second position.
India plays Malaysia in their final pool match on Friday, while China will take on lowly Thailand.