Melbourne: Rupinder Pal Singh's brace went in vain as Indian men's hockey team lost 2-3 to hosts Australia in a tense opening game of the four-nation Invitational Tournament, here today.
The Indians began positively against top-ranked Australia, showing positive intent and energy in the first quarter. However, the first 15 minutes ended in a stalemate.
Indian youngster Affan Yousuf's attacking approach almost paid dividends early on had it not been for a solid defense from the Kookaburras.
India, who had recently won the Asian Champions Trophy in Malaysia, managed to gain three successive penalty corners in the second quarter of the match.
After missing first two opportunities, Rupinder did not disappoint the third time as his powerful and precise dragflick went past Australian goalkeeper Tristan Clemons to give India a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute.
But the lead was shortlived as as Jeremy Hayward scored the equaliser for Australia three minutes later, using his dragflicking skills to beat a diving Akash Chikte in front of the Indian goal.
At halftime, the game was beautifully poised at 1-1.
India witnessed some times in the third quarter as the Australians scored two more goals to surge ahead 3-1.
Hayward scored his second penalty corner goal in the 36th minute and then Trent Mitton scored his team's third off a difficult angle in the 43rd minute.
However, India did not give up without a fight as Talwinder Singh lifted the spirits in the camp with a superb counter-attacking approach only to be denied by the Australian defence.
Chikte then came up with a miraculous save of a powerful hit from Dylan Wotherspoon to keep India in the hunt.
Rupinder brought India back into the game with another penalty corner conversion in the 53rd minute as the match witnessed an engrossing end.
But the Australians did enough to deny India any further chance to score an equaliser to pocket the hard-fought win.
India will next play Malaysia tomorrow.