The Football Ferns failed to capitalise on a number of opportunities as they were beaten 2-0 by China in their first game of a four-nation tournament in Yongchuan.
In their first outing since the World Cup in June, Tom Sermanni's side were missing a pair of key players in Abby Erceg and Meikayla Moore but still managed to dominate the first half.
The Ferns were able to cut open the Chineses defense but were unable to put away their chances.
China took the lead against the run of play early in the second half and scored the second in stoppage time.
It was a flattering result for the Chinese and Sermanni was left to reflect on an otherwise highly-satisfying outing.
"I'm gutted by the result to be honest because I thought it was an outstanding performance," he said.
"I felt we nullified China for most of the game and created the better chances. Until they scored the first goal, Erin hardly had a save to make and they didn't create a clear chance. We had a great chance to equalise and had to take a couple of risks at the end so I think 2-0 was a cruel result for the performance."
Among many positive aspects on the night were the senior international debuts of three players with Claudia Bunge handed a starting berth while Nicole Stratford and Jana Radosavljevic both appeared off the bench.
Bunge put in a player-of-the-match performance on her first appearance, showing composure beyond her years in an accomplished display.
"She looked like a seasoned pro, I don't think she put a foot wrong in the whole game," Sermanni said.
"I thought her decision-making was first class, she was comfortable on the ball and slotted in fantastically well. Jana and Stratty handled themselves really well too, it's not easy coming on for the last 15 or 20 minutes of a game like that," he added.
"So there were a lot of positives tonight - we had opportunities, got into good positions and played some really good football. We just didn't get the outcome that the performance merited."
The Football Ferns will now meet Canada in the third place play-off at the invitational tournament on Sunday.