The Indian women's hockey team were defeated 1 - 3 by a resilient Japan in their Hawke's Bay Cup quarter - final here on Thursday.
Japan started the game strongly and took the lead in the fifth minute from their first penalty corner. They scored two more quick field goals in the sixth and seventh minutes to leave India reeling at 3 - 0.
The Indians settled down and earned their first penalty corner which they converted through Rani in the 14th minute.
After an exciting first quarter, the second period turned out to be calmer as both teams looked to their respective defences to control the flow of the game.
India came out of stronger after half - time and immediately tested the opponent's defence, only to be thwarted by the Japanese goalkeeper.
The Japanese, who started the second half defensively, were pushed back constantly as the Indians pressed hard to find the goals. Deflections by Poonam missed the target, while captain Deepika also missed a chance in the third quarter.
Late in the fourth quarter, India had a flurry of penalty corners as they looked to put their opponents under pressure.
Japan goalkeeper Asano Sakiyo was called into action as she cleared Rani's attempt off the line in the final minutes to ensure her team qualified for the next round.
India will next play Canada in a classification game on Saturday.