Lilima Minz's goal went in vain as the Indian women's hockey team were edged 1-2 by hosts Australia in their final round-robin game at the Four Nations hockey tournament in Darwin, Australia on Friday.
Keeping with the rhythm of the tournament, India started off keeping a solid shape in defense, and let Australia hold possession, hoping to catch them on the break.
The hosts made the most of their possession and took an early lead via Grace Stewart in the 9th minute. The goal galvanised India into attack and soon, they were controlling the possession and pushing the Australians deep into their own half.
The hard work paid dividends and India scored the equaliser in the 12th minute. Deep Grace's strong drive at the top of the Australian circle caused a mistake by the Australian defense and Lilima Minz pounced on the stray ball outside their area. Cutting in, she unleashed a shot which was deflected in by Australia's Kirstin Dwyer to draw India level.
After shocking the Australians, India pressed home the advantage, and had a great opportunity in the final seconds, but Australia's goalkeeper Rachael Lynch made a smart save to deny India the lead going into the break.
In the second quarter, the teams fought out an even battle, although Australia took more chances on goal. Their first PC, shot into the bottom left corner was parried away smartly by Savita, before Sunita Lakra cleared the stray ball away cleanly.
Defending spectacularly, India frustrated Australia throughout the quarter and then in the closing stages, leading to half time, they started forcing the hosts into mistakes.
The two teams went into half time evenly matched with a goal apiece.
At the change of ends, Australia came out strongly and controlled a large part of the third quarter, constantly pressing and testing the Indian defence, who rose up to the task brilliantly.
The Indian eves kept thwarting the Australian strikes and ensured the hosts didn't manage too many shots on target. With two minutes left, Australia came closest to breaking the deadlock, as Dwyer shot past Savita, and had seemingly done enough, before Feli, defending on the goal line, flicked the ball away to safety.
In the dying minutes, Australia, had two PCs pushed away by Savita, before Deepika had the chance to give India a lead, but Lynch was up to the task.
Lynch's save proved to be a game changer as with three minutes of the game left the hosts broke India's resolute defence with Emily Smith scoring the goal to give them a victory.
"I think tactically and defensively, this was an ideal performance from the team, our best in the tournament. Savita was huge in our goal and all the defenders took collective responsibility and worked together brilliantly," said coach Neil Hawgood.
"When we are playing teams with a strong attacking battery like Australia we need to be compact defensively, and tactically smart and we showed that today. It is unfortunate we conceded so late in the game, but we are proud of our performance today," he added.
India take on Japan in the bronze medal match on Saturday.
Image: Action from the hockey match played between India and Australia at the Four Nations Hockey Tournament in Darwin on Friday
Photograph: Hockey India