Ranieri caught up in Chinese storm

Juventus coach Claudio Ranieri has found himself at the centre of a race row following comments he made after his side's midweek Italian Cup defeat.

The Old Lady lost 2-1 to Lazio in the first-leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final, with the ex-Chelsea manager hitting out at, referee, Paolo Tagliavento, accusing him of being "Chinese" for being too strict on his side.

"I did not like the entire direction of the match. I found the official was tough with us, on the field it seemed as if he was Chinese, as it was always yellow cards with us," he told Rai.

However, the comments caused deep offence in the Far East, leading the country's largest sport newspaper, Titan, to demand an apology from the Italian.

But Ranieri, who faces former club Chelsea in Turin in the second leg of the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday, claims his comments were purely misinterpreted.

"Juventus played in China in the past, and I know the performance of Chinese referees. They are strict and respect the rules of FIFA. They blow their whistles for all fouls," he said.

"Recently, the referees in Serie A have tended to follow the example set by the English Premier League and blow for fouls less and less.

"I don't like [the English style]. Juventus have many games at the moment and we need more protection.

"But against Lazio, the referee changed and blew his whistle for all fouls and gave yellow cards. So I said he was like a Chinese referee. I didn't complain about him.

"I didn't intend to offend any Chinese people. I like China very much and the people very much. China is a great country."