#ItaliaLovesMichaelOliver - Italian fans back English referee after wife abused on Twitter

By Andrew MullenBBC Sport
Michael Oliver
Gianluigi Buffon was sent off for his protestations at Michael Oliver's injury-time penalty decision and later criticised the official to the media

"A great man does not seek applause or place; he seeks truth... this man is Michael Oliver."

Two days ago, British referee Michael Oliver was described by one of the world's best goalkeepers, Gianluigi Buffon, as having "a bag of rubbish for a heart" and vilified by the Italian press for his last-minute penalty decision against Juventus.

Converted by Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo to knock the Italian giants out of the Champions League, Oliver's penalty call prompted some football fans to go as far as abusing his wife Lucy - also a qualified Women's Super League referee - on social media.

A large proportion of the comments contained abusive and offensive language

However, a case of 'ti amo' has surprisingly developed with other Italian football fans in direct response to the abuse - prompting the hashtag #ItaliaLovesMichaelOliver to become a top trend on Twitter and sending a wave of unexpected affection to the Premier League official from Ashington.

But some came out in support of Michael Oliver, who has been a top-flight referee since 2010

Having started on Thursday with a tweet "Let's let Lucy know that we're not all hunchbacks, away with the hashtag", #ItaliaLovesMichaelOliver has now been used more than 6,000 times.

Unsurprisingly, much of the social media support for Michael Oliver is not from Turin
One of the most popular posts in support of Michael Oliver

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