Ravi Pal Singh's last-minute equaliser saved India's [ Images ] the blushes, as the defending champions eked out a 1-1 draw with China in their first match of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament in Ipoh, Malaysia, on Thursday.
China went ahead in the 13th minute through Sun Tianjun and India, after squandering chances galore, equalised at the fag end of the tie when Ravi Pal Singh scored from a goalmouth melee.
India went all out for an early lead and mounted attacks before their rivals could settle down.
Winger Mandeep Antil sent a crisp cross into the striking circle but Danish Mujtaba erred. Soon Tushar Khandker cut in from the left flank to set up Shivendra Singh, whose push missed the mark.
China gradually started asserting their supremacy with regular onslaughts as their swift ball rotation had the Indian defence in disarray and it was left to the versatile Sardar Singh to blunt the Chinese moves.
India nearly conceded a goal in the 11th minute, but goalkeeper Sreejesh brought off a good save from a turnover.
China finally opened their account two minutes later when Sun
Tianjun deflected the ball home from a Meng Jun reverse.
The Chinese players had the Indian midfield on a tight leash and forwards Sarvanjit Singh and Shivendra Singh were often caught napping.
There was no sharpness and rhythm in the Indian game as they exhibited an unimaginative display, largely devoid of forays from the left.
To their credit, India earned five penalty-corners, but the flicks and variations were not good for the equaliser.
India fought back, but only in patches, in the second half. Again it was a mess up in the circle, with Danish, Shivendra, Antil and skipper Rajpal Singh fumbling a lot.
The equaliser eventually came eleven seconds from the hooter as the Indians, in an all out effort to salvage pride, succeeded in putting the ball past China's goalkeeper Su Rifeng from a melee, midfielder Ravi Pal getting the last touch.
India will now play Pakistan in their next match on Friday.
In an earlier match, South Korea whipped Egypt [ Images ] 6-0.