One critic, on www.clickmusic.com, said the One Direction song was a sterilised and repackaged version of The Who's song.
Thousands of One Direction fans took to Twitter to defend them after rumours The Who were considering taking legal action.
But Townshend said: "No. I like the single. I like One Direction. The chords I used and the chords they used are the same three chords we've all been using in basic pop music since Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry made it clear that fancy chords don't mean great music - not always.
"I'm still writing songs that sound like Baba O'Riley - or I'm trying to. It's a part of my life and a part of pop's lineage."
The boy band - brought together on The X Factor - will be in London next week for the premiere of their film One Direction: This Is Us.
The five - Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson - scored the fastest-selling track by a non-US artist when Live While We're Young sold 341,000 copies in a week.