|Panathinaikos FC's Djibril Cisse (R) celebrates his goal with teammates Sidney Gouvou and Sotiris Ninis against Inter Milan. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)
Last week, Djibril Cisse vowed that he wanted to erase the memory of France's World Cup horror.
While Tuesday's game against European and Italian champion Inter Milan at Rogers Centre was only a pre-season warmup, Cisse played like a man with a massive chip on his shoulder.
He scored twice in the first half, the second worthy of any highlight reel, as he led Greek champions Panathinaikos to a 3-2 victory over European and Italian champions Inter Milan at the Rogers Centre.
Panathinaikos' star striker, the reigning MVP and top scorer of the Greek league, was one of the 23 members of the French team who new national coach Laurent Blanc vowed are persona non grata after a disgraceful campaign in South Africa that saw striker Nicolas Anelka sent home and the players stage a one-day strike.
This was Panathinaikos' first competitive pre-season game, and Cisse let his team's fans know that he'll be true to his word.
"It's only natural for Cisse to put the past in the past and look to the future," Panathinaikos manager Nikolas Nioplias said. "He's a very hungry player."
Cisse did a series of back flips after his first goal, a celebration that really was over the top for an exhibition game being played in a stadium that only had 17,169 fans in the seats.
In the 13th minute, Panathinaikos winger Sebastian Leto made a fantastic side-footed pass from the left side of the penalty area to Cisse right in front of goal. Paolo Orlandoni, Inter's back-up keeper, sprawled and stopped Cisse's first shot, but Cisse was able to smack the rebound across the goal line.
While the first goal was the result of hard work, the second was the product of sheer talent.
Cisse got the ball at the midfield stripe and ran the Inter Milan back line with the ball at his feet. As Cisse picked up speed, the defenders kept pushing back towards their own goal. Cisse got to about 20 yards away from the goal and unleashed a wicked drive that fizzed into the back of the net.
That one was worth the backflips.
Tackles were at a minimum even though a temporary grass pitch was laid over the Rogers Centre's concrete floor, and Inter got back into the game in short order.
Samuel Eto'o cut the lead to one, slamming the ball into an open goal after a scramble in the Panathinaikos penalty area.
But Leto got the two-goal lead back before halftime, chipping the ball over Orlandoni after his team got off to a four-on-one break on the Inter defence, the kind of slack defending from the Italian side that we know we'll never see once the games start counting in the standings.
That defence didn't include three of its mainstays, Maicon, Lucio or Walter Samuel. Those three World Cup stars weren't brought on until late in the second half for a victory lap for the fans who bothered to make the trip.
Inter coach Rafa Benitez said Panathinaikos played the counter-attacking game perfectly, sucking Inter into the attack and hitting on the break.
"They were doing the job, they have experience, they were doing well," Benitez said.
The evening didn't have a heroic end for Cisse; he got into a shoving match with Lucio -- and tried to headbutt the Brazilian defender. Some words were exchanged, but Nioplias wisely decided to take Cisse off, cooling off a game that had become a little nasty in the late going.
Benitez didn't see who started the skirmish, he wasn't happy to see Lucio lose his cool.
"I don't like it," he said. "I will see if we can change, have more control in the future."
Brazilian teenager Philipe Coutinho added a late consolation goal for Inter and, with seconds left, Argentine star Diego Milito's headed effort from close range missed a wide open goal.