Djibril Cisse sealed an impressive victory for Panathinaikos as they twice came from behind to defeat AS Roma in a pulsating UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg in Athens on Thursday.

PAO ended Roma’s superb unbeaten run to take the initiative in the two-legged tie.

Mirko Vucinic 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 PAO substitute, Lazaros Hristodoulopoulos, to hook in the equaliser before Cisse headed home a Salpingidis cross.

Roma went into the contest on the back of a 20-game unbeaten run, however it was PAO who began the brightest, with Julio Sergio 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 PAO but was thwarted as Sergio tipped the midfielder’s stunning drive around the post.

Just two minutes later the home side was hit by a sucker punch, Vucinic 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 PAO, but after a surging run and cross to set up Cisse, 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 Simao’s knock-down from a Giorgos Karagounis corner.

It seemed Roma was 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 Cisse headed the winner to set up a thrilling return next Thursday.

Roma boss Claudio Ranieri couldn’t hide his disappointment after the loss.

Speaking with reporters after the see-sawing match, Ranieri said that he believed that his players completely lost concentration and did not pay attention during dead ball situations.

“We had a black-out moment where they scored goals from dead ball situations,” Ranieri said. “This does not happen to us a lot.

“We did not pay full attention like we should have. When we were winning, we should have closed the match off instead of allowing them back into it.

“I told the players during the half-time interval that we should try and close the match out, but we were not that determined to do so.

“Our objective next week is easy. We must win,” summed up the tactician.

Roma forward Julio Baptista is aiming to find the back of the net in the Eternal City in the second leg of the tie next week.

The Brazilian wants to put the 3-2 loss to PAO behind them and stated that it will only take one goal by the Giallorossi to advance to the next stage.

“We may have lost, but it is not a horrible result,” the 28-year-old told a Roma website. “All that we need is one goal at the Olimpico.

“During these matches, you cannot commit any errors, and we committed many. We need to work on this.

“We were focused on winning this evening, and we weren’t thinking about the league and our position on the table. Football is like this. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.

“We now must focus on our next matches, and forget about this loss,” Baptista concluded.