India [ Images ] produced a fine all-round show to hold formidable China 1-1 in their penultimate Group A match and inch towards a place in the semi-finals of the women's Asia Cup hockey in Bangkok on Tuesday.
India now needs just a draw against Malaysia in their last group match on Wednesday to make it to the semi-finals.
It was China who scored first when Liao Jia Hui found the mark in the 18th minute from the team's first penalty-corner. But Saba Anjum found got the equaliser in the 45th minute, also from a penalty-corner.
India are unbeaten in the tournament, having previously routed Singapore and Thailand 13-0 and 15-0 respectively.
With two wins and a draw, both India and China have seven points each but Malaysia still have a chance of entering the semi-finals.
On an overcast day, the Indian women made their intentions clear from the beginning and displayed aggressive hockey that forced the Chinese on the back foot. However, some wayward shooting by the forwards let them down. The attacking duo of Jasjeet Kaur and Rani Ramphal were off-colour, the former missing two easy chances.
With veteran Asunta Lakra outstanding in midfield, the Chinese were forced to operate through the flanks, only to find Mamta Kharab and Deepika Thakur, playing down the field, thwarting them repeatedly.
After surviving the Indian onslaught in the first 10 minutes, China made full use of the first penalty-corner they earned, scoring from a variation in the 18th minute after captain Ma Yibo and Sun Zeng combined well to set it up for Hui, who coolly swept the ball to the right of India goalkeeper Deepika Murthy.
The change of ends seemed to have worked wonders for the Indians as 10 minutes into the second half Anjum drew parity through a penalty-corner variation.
The result could have been different had custodian Savita, who replaced Murthy, not brought off some spectacular saves in the second half.
India have never defeated China in the annals of the Asia Cup and must be disappointed after coming so close to breaking the jinx today.
The disappointment was quite evident on chief coach M K Kaushik's [ Images ] face.
"We could have won as we have definitely played better than China. But some of my players need to be more confident of themselves," the former India men's hockey team ace said after the match.