Indian men’s football team assistant coach Mahesh Gawli hailed the commitment of captain Sunil Chhetri who scored for the fourth game running for the national team as India were held to a 1-1 draw by Kuwait at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Tuesday. 

The Indian captain drew first blood in first-half stoppage time but the visitors hit back in second-half injury time as both sides were reduced to ten men following the dismissals of Indian forward Rahim Ali and Kuwaiti defender Hamad Al-Qallaf. 

Chhetri, however, took his international goal tally to 92 goals and remains India’s biggest goal threat. 

“It was an excellent goal,” Gawli said at the post-match press conference. 

“We must appreciate this legend. He has been a legend for us for many years. He is 38-year-old but he was running like a 21-year-old,” he added. 

Anwar Ali scored an own goal in the dying minutes of the match but Gawli, who was a defender during his playing days, was full of praise for the young centre-back. 

"He was very good. We can see his confidence. There was so much pressure in such a big match, but he was playing like a cool and calm player," Gawli said.

The 43-year-old was critical of the referee’s performance and felt he lost control of the match. 

“The refereeing was very bad. He failed to control the match. SAFF need to look into this. If we continue with such referees, it will be bad for the competition,” the assistant coach said. 

“The referee gave a yellow card to Sandesh Jhingan for his first tackle. It's not right. The referee must control the match. The coach got angry but he didn't say anything to them but they were targetting the coach. We could see that,” he added. 

India will now face Lebanon in the semi-final on Saturday. They have faced the west Asian nation twice in the Hero Intercontinental Cup drawing the first game 0-0 before beating them 2-0 in the final. 

“I think our performance was very good. We played excellent football,” Gawli said. 

“We looked at all the fitness stats before selecting the line-up. Kuwait is a strong team and we wanted to put out a team to win the match. We will now focus on recovery,” he concluded.