Djibril Cissé sealed an impressive victory for Panathinaikos FC as they twice came from behind to defeat AS Roma in a pulsating UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg in Athens.
Mirko Vučinić put Claudia Ranieri's men ahead in the first half with a superbly curled effort, but Dimitris Salpingidis came off the bench to level via a close-range effort in the 67th minute. David Pizarro's penalty then restored Roma's lead nine minutes from time, only for another Panathinaikos substitute, Lazaros Hristodoulopoulos, to hook in the equaliser before Cissé headed home a Salpingidis cross.
Roma went into the contest on the back of a 20-game unbeaten run, however it was Panathinaikos who began the brightest, with Júlio Sérgio blocking Kostas Katsouranis's fierce drive after just two minutes. The visitors nonetheless soon settled into a fluid rhythm and were unfortunate not to take the lead on 14 minutes, when John Arne Riise's shot cannoned off the left post.
Sotiris Ninis responded for Panathinaikos but was thwarted as Sérgio tipped the midfielder's stunning drive around the post. Just two minutes later the home side were hit by a sucker punch, Vučinić finding space on the edge of the penalty area to curl a great effort into the top right corner. Impressive winger Sebastian Leto rallied for Panathinaikos, but after a surging run and cross to set up Cissé, the Frenchman headed wide with the goal at his mercy.
Salpingidis replaced Katsouranis just after the hour and the diminutive Greece striker scored with virtually his first touch, stabbing in Simão's knock-down from a Giorgos Karagounis corner. It seemed Roma were being kept at bay but they were awarded a penalty when substitute Alessio Cerci was felled by Nikos Spiropoulos just inside the box. David Pizarro, an influential figure for Roma throughout, confidently dispatched the spot-kick. Hristodoulopoulos pounced just a minute after coming on, however, before Cissé headed the winner to set up a thrilling return next Thursday.