It was the best start India had got off to in the tournament, but the end result was a 7-2 loss to world champion Australia, in the quarterfinals of the Hero Hockey World League Final at the National Stadium on Wednesday.
India took a 2-0 lead inside 15 minutes of play, and for the first 25 minutes, it was all about the host.
Birendra Lakra opened the scoring in the sixth minute. Yuvraj Walmiki made it 2-0 in the 11th, put through by M.B. Aiyappa.
Captain Sardar Singh was brilliant in the midfield, bisecting the opposition defence and distributing balls with precision. Aided by S. K. Uthappa and Kothajit Singh, Sardar was all over the Australians who found it impossible to dispossess him.
The Indian defence was stubborn too, not letting the Australians get anywhere close to the Indian goal.
But that was only for a while.
Australia inexorably gained ground on the hosts, and went into the break 3-2 ahead.
The Indians seemed to fall apart in the second half.
The Australians slammed in three more goals in the first ten minutes before Jacob Whetton scored the final goal in the 65th, a low shot from the left.
India’s biggest concern remains fitness. The intensity began withering after the first 25 minutes, and thereafter the Aussies took charge.
India next plays Germany in the 5-8 place play-offs.
Earlier, the Netherlands booked its spot in the semifinals with a 2-1 victory over Germany.
The Netherlands scored both goals in the first six minutes, the opening one within the first 20 seconds. Mink van der Weeden’s penalty corner attempt took a deflection and went in. Five minutes later, Seve van Ass was perfectly positioned to take a hit-in and guided the ball past Germany goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi.
Post the break, the Germans fought back.
It was Oliver Korn who reduced the margin, sending the ball home after being put through by Florian Fuchs.
In another contest, New Zealand edged Argentina in sudden-death after the teams were tied 1-1 at the end of regulation time.
Earlier, England held off a persistent Belgium to become the first team to make it to the last four.
The results: Quarterfinals: Australia 7 (Russell Ford 2, Nicholas Budgeon, Jason Wilson, Glenn Turner, Simon Orchard, Jacob Whetton) bt India 2 (Birendra Lakra, Yuvraj Walmiki).
England 1 (Tom Carson) bt Belgium 0.
The Netherlands 2 (Mink van der Weeden, Seve van Ass) bt Germany 1 (Oliver Korn).
New Zealand 1 (Kane Russell) bt Argentina 1 (Matias Parades), via tie-break.