ENSCHEDE - Inter Milan needed goals from Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto'o to scramble a 2-2 draw away to debutants Twente Enschede in an uncomfortable start to their Champions League defence on Tuesday.
Inter, showered with praise for their triumph last May, instead found themselves pelted with rain and high balls on a night that ended worryingly for new coach Rafa Benitez, as news filtered through that forward Goran Pandev had suffered a potentially serious knee injury.
The frugal European champions opted to stick with the same team that clinched an unprecedented Italian treble, minus the sold Mario Balotelli, but that decision could now hang over them like a dark Enschede cloud given their lack of forward options.
At least Jose Mourinho's former side boast Eto'o, a big money buy who struggled to fit in at times last season but who has made a superb start to this campaign.
The Cameroon striker sealed the Group A draw with a strike from outside the area on 41 minutes which skipped along the wet turf right into the bottom corner of the net. His team had earlier taken the lead against last season's shock first-time Dutch champions thanks to a Netherlands World Cup runner-up.
Sneijder, adorned with tulips and cheered on by thousands in Amsterdam in July as he took a celebratory boat ride on the canals, was booed by home fans on his return to his country but he soon sparked silence with a 13th minute opener.
Last season's talisman Diego Milito, in his one moment of quality so far in a turgid start to the new campaign, forced Nikolay Mihaylov into a smart save but Sneijder was there to score the rebound.
Tattooed Theo Janssen, looking all the way the midfield hardman with a touch of panache, then equalised for Twente with a perfect curling left-footed free kick which two Julio Cesars may have struggled to reach.
Twente fans sang a stirring rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' before kickoff and Michel Preud'homme's men were walking on air when the increasingly luckless Milito glanced in an own goal from a corner after half an hour.
Eto'o's equaliser, along with Esteban Cambiasso clipping the bar, gave Inter hope of a winner but Twente could easily have scored again with pumped balls into the box causing the visiting defence problems especially on the slippery, lush grass.
"In the first half we deserved nothing. We opened the scoring but after that we faced serious problems," Benitez, whose new side have four lucky points from two Serie A games, told a news conference.
"It's not easy to defend a corner with four players above 1.85m and their first goal was just a well-taken free-kick."
One piece of good news for the holders was the return of right back Maicon from injury but his trademark raids down the flank were hindered by the slippery ground, as was some of Inter's usually fluent passing.
The hosts, who saw coach Steve McClaren leave for VfL Wolfsburg after last term's triumph, acquitted themselves admirably in their first group game and with the deadball skills and bite of Janssen they could make the knockout stages.
The tough-nut even brushed off an attempted headbutt from Inter's young Kenyan MacDonald Mariga which UEFA may look at before the holders host Werder Bremen and Twente travel to Tottenham Hotspur on Sept. 29 in the second round of games.
"Our goal was to stop Inter and to hurt them," Preud'homme said. "We didn't always stop them but we succeeded in hurting them"I don't think any of the teams will underestimate us."comments