Lautaro Martinez struck the woodwork twice and had numerous efforts saved, but Marcus Thuram made the siege count as Inter beat Benfica 1-0.
The Nerazzurri needed a win after starting out with a late 1-1 draw away to Real Sociedad, but Davide Frattesi and Marko Arnautovic were out of action. The Portuguese champions had ex-Juventus star Angel Di Maria and former Inter transfer target Anatoliy Trubin, but Antonio Silva was suspended following his early red card in the 2-0 home defeat to RB Salzburg.
These sides famously met in the 1965 European Cup Final, then last season Inter won the quarter-final 5-3 on aggregate. Because of throwing fireworks during that fixture, Benfica fans were banned.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan couldn’t get on the end of a Denzel Dumfries cross to the back post, then the Dutchman nodded a Hakan Calhanoglu cross over the bar.
Aursnes took advantage of a defensive misunderstanding to burst clear on goal, forcing a one-handed Yann Sommer save at the near post, then on the resulting corner Angel Di Maria curled it directly onto the top of the crossbar.
Dumfries wasted another promising opportunity by shinning the volley at the far post, while Benfica lost Alexander Bah to injury.
Hakan Calhanoglu fired straight at the goalkeeper from distance, while Sommer made the save on Juan Bernat even after a clear offside position.
Nicoló Barella cut inside for a right-foot curler from the edge of the box, forcing Trubin into a tricky save.
Marcus Thuram had a heavy touch, allowing Juan Bernat to make the clearance, but Dumfries wasted another free header and Lautaro Martinez was incredibly unlucky to see his stunning volley off the outside of the boot crack against the crossbar.
The Argentine was incredulous when he also then hit the upright on a Thuram lay-off, but the siege finally paid off with the opener.
Dumfries sprung the offside trap on a Barella pass, pulled back from the by-line and found the relatively unmarked Thuram from eight yards, as the defenders were all drawn to Lautaro.
Moments later, Federico Dimarco had the ball in the net after wandering offside. There was also an odd situation when Neres fell on Lautaro Martinez and accidentally kicked the Argentine in the face, but it was Lautaro who was booked for the tackle.
Lautaro Martinez got around Trubin to be denied by a goal-line clearance, even if there was an offside flag, then Trubin made another desperate save one-on-one with the World Cup winner.
Former Fiorentina striker Arthur Cabral came off the bench and drilled just wide, but Trubin made another extraordinary save on an understandably frustrated Lautaro Martinez, sticking out a boot.
Inter 1-0 Benfica
Thuram 62 (I)