Indian women fought hard and came close to becoming the first team to score against Australia but eventually fell short and lost 1-0 in the semi-final of the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Thursday.
They will now face England in a bronze medal play-off on Saturday.
Grace Stewart scored the only goal of the match in the 37th minute and though India pushed for an equaliser through out the fourth quarter the Australians successfully saw off the period to set up a summit clash against neighbours New Zealand.
The 2002 Manchester Games gold medallists were aware of the enormity of their task when they took on Australia, who had not conceded a goal in the group stages. And knowing that it would be difficult to match the home team for the 60-minute duration with an aggressive approach, the Indians opted to defend.
They started brilliantly and put the Australians under pressure in the first five minutes. Skipper Rani Rampal had a golden opportunity to put the team ahead after being fed by Vandana Kataria in the second minute but her shot was too weak to trouble the Australian goalkeeper.
It was the Australians who dominated the entire half there after in terms of possession and circle penetration and even earned two penalty corners in the first two quarters.
But Indian custodian Savita was alert to any threat to her goal and credit has to be given to the Deepika and Deep Grace Ekka for thwarting a number of Australian moves before they managed to enter the striking circle.
Savita was once again the saviour two minutes into the second quarter when she dived to her right to stop Jane Claxton’s reverse hit from the top of the circle.
Australia continued to farm possession and most of the game was played in the Indian half. But the home team could not create any clear chance to score thanks to the Indians defending in numbers and making timely tackles.
The goal finally came in the 37th minute when Grace Stewart tapped in a volley after Savannah Fitzpatrick’s reverse hit from just inside the 25-yard-line found her inside the striking circle.
India, who had just one shot on goal in the first three quarters, finally began to push forward in the final quarter and earned three penalty corners in quick succession in the first four minutes but Gurjit Kaur could not beat the Australian runner.
India’s two best chances to find an equaliser came in the last three minutes of play but neither Navneet Kaur not Rani Rampal could convert.
Navneet tried to first control a cross from Monika but by the time she could get her stick down for a shot, Australian custodian Rachael Lynch had padded the ball away.
Rampal then did everything right to control a long pass from Vandana Kataria inside the Australian striking circle and beat the marker with a quick turn but her shot was slightly wide.
Nevertheless, it was a creditable performance from the Indian team that had lost to the Australians 6-1 in the Rio Olympics and the performance should give them enough confidence for the play-off against England, who they had beaten 2-1 in the group stage.