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The experienced coach praised the central midfield duo of Mehtab and Lenny as India face the Afghan challenge in the final...

Subhash Bhowmick, who in his capacity of a technical director won the I-League last term with Churchill Brothers, heaped praise on India’s much improved performance in their 1-0 semi-final win over Maldives at the SAFF Championship.

"The performance has been much better. This is an improved outfit," he told Goal.

The Blue Tigers had faced widespread criticism for their pale display in the group stages, where they could grab the  bragging rights only once, that too courtesy of an own goal scored by the opponent. The team however, looked much charged up against the Ali Ashfaq-led Maldives side.

Bhowmick though, sounded disillusioned on the hype generated by the Maldives talisman Ali Ashfaq who is arguably considered as the best player in the South Asian region.

"Yes, he had scored 10 goals in 2 matches. I have not seen those entire matches and going by the media reports, I seriously considered him as a big threat for the Indian defense. But look at the way he played! Let alone being a prolific goalscorer, he is not even a team man. Also the team is not impressive. Ali Ashfaq is a single individual. He can't make differences all by himself," the former East Bengal coach remarked.

After being critical of Wim Koevermans’ selection in the past, Bhowmick praised the Dutchman as India booked their place in the final.

"He (Koevermans) has made a couple of good decisions. This was one of the better matches," he told.

The Bengal coach also supported the exclusion of left-back Nalappan Mohanraj from the first team pointing it as one of the "good decisions." He however, refused to single out a player in particular for their notable performance against Maldives.

"A number of players were superb on the pitch. Mehtab (Hossain) and Lenny (Rodrigues) were very good in the middle of the pitch. Arata (Izumi) was also brilliant before he got injured. It was a team effort and it will be unfair to pick someone as the best," he opined.

Ashfaq was booked for a dive by referee Adham Makhadmeh, a decision which was contentious according to the Maldives’ contingent. At the end of the game, a fracas ensued between the match officials and the Maldives’ players.

"I saw the match on television. It was not fully clear whether it was a dive or there was some contact. But to me, it certainly looked like a dive. I don't know why he feigned that way, given he could have easily scored from that position without diving and claiming for a penalty," Bhowmick remarked.

Afghanistan are keen on seeking a ‘revenge’ against India for their defeat in the 2011 edition of the tournament. Bhowmick cautioned India and mentioned that the Lions of Khorasan would be a tougher battle for them to overcome than what they faced in the semi-final.

"Afghanistan will certainly be a tougher opponent than Maldives. I can't say who is the favourite, but I will certainly like to wish our boys best of luck for the final," he signed off.


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