The valiant Indian women hockey team had to be satisfied with the silver medal after they went down 3-5 to formidable China in an action-packed final of the seventh Asia Cup in Bangkok.
Surinder Kaur and her team-mates, who have already booked their berth for the 2010 World Cup in Argentina with this final appearance, tried every trick in the book but just could not get the better of their Chinese opponents.
Surinder earned the lead for India [ Images ] in the eighth minute, while Mamta Kharab (47th) and Deepika Thakur (54th) sounded the board in the second half but the Chinese scored thrice in the first session (13th, 18th and 27th) and twice (47th, 51st) in the second to emerge victorious.
This was China's second Asia Cup triumph, coming exactly 20 years after their 1989 victory in Hong Kong.
India took the initiative early in the match with Surinder's eighth minute goal but the joy lasted only five minutes as the Chinese changed to top gear, putting the Indian on the defensive mode.
Veteran Fu Bao Rang trapped a free hit to equalise in the 13th minute and soon Ma Yi Bo's straight drive off the team's first penalty corner made it 2-1 for China.
Right-winger Zhao Yu Dia then made good use of a feed from the left to stretch the lead to 3-1 in the 27th minute and go into the breather with a two-goal advantage.
Ma Yi Bo converted another penalty corner and De Jiao Jiao struck another in a counter attack in the second half to complete the tally for the winners.
Earlier, the match started 30 minutes late due to power failure and because of heavy rains. Half-time break had to be increased from usual 10 minutes to about 40 minutes.
The Chinese juggernaut rolled smoothly today befitting their world number three status. The forward line of Zhao Yu Dia on the left, Fu Bao Rong in the centre and Li Hong Xia at the right flank masterminded innumerable sallies that had the Indian defence on its toes.
With neat trapping at a high pace, they tormented Indian defenders Subhadra Pradhan and Binita Toppo. With goalie Deepika Murthy and Ritu Rani extending helping hand, India did thwart some nippy attacks in time.
India got a handful of chances in the first half. Midway through the first half, defender Binita surged to the 25-yard line before giving a precise cross but Rani Ramphal could not trap inside the circle and a golden chance was thus frittered away.
Quickly after the second session started, Mamta miscued a close range shot and within five minutes, India wasted two penalty corners. On the first occasion, Jasjeet's grounder proved too feeble, while Saba Anjum's deflection was blocked by China goalie Zhang Yi Meng.
India suffered a setback in the 40th minute when medio Asunta Lakra got a yellow card and the team had to make do with one player less and in this spell China scored twice.
In the last five minutes, two penalty corners came India's way but neither Jasjeet nor Saba could sound the board.
Once China established a comfortable 4-2 lead, India coach M K Kaushik [ Images ] brought Savita Punnia under the cage and she certainly lived upto the expectations with some fabulous last second kicks and clearances.
The silver medal gave India valuable 700 points which will boost India's world ranking when it is revised this year.