Darwin: India lost 1-2 to Japan in the bronze medal play-off match in the four-nation invitational women’s hockey tournament here on Saturday.
Vandana Katariya gave India a 1-0 lead in the 37th minute but Japan equalised in the very next minute via Motomi Kawamura’s goal.
Four minutes later, Minami Shimizu’s strike gave the Japanese a 2-1 lead which they held on till the end.
Speaking after the match, India chief coach Neil Hawgood said: “The entire tournament has been a great test for us, to learn about our strengths and weaknesses as well as the opponents we will face in Rio.
“As a team, our defensive work has been solid and now we can build from there.”
India started the game brightly, pushing Japan onto the back foot immediately, and penetrated the Japanese circle several times in the first five minutes. Japan rallied back though and slowly got control of the possession, as India dropped back to a more defensively compact gameplan.
In the first real chance of the game though, Japan, attacking through a long cross field drive, were denied by a brilliant diving save from Savita Punia in goal.
Early in the second quarter, Japan were awarded their third penalty corner but India defended it.
But the real drama unfolded in the second half of the game as India started pressing the Japanese back, holding possession and creating chances.
The increased pressure paid dividends as Vandana got the opener for India in the 37th minute. A long cross field drive from Deepika seemed to be headed towards safety, before Vandana crept in behind Japan’s Nagisa Hayashi and flicked in the ball to give India the lead.
Almost from the restart though, Japan equalised through Kawamura and took the lead in the 42nd minute via Shimizu.
India had a penalty corner in the dying minutes of the game, but could not convert as Japan defended strongly and took the victory.