Brisbane Roar captain Matt McKay blamed an inability to take chances for his side's 3-0 loss to Kashima Antlers, while coach John Aloisi labelled it "a very disappointing result".
In driving rain in Kashima, the hosts wrapped up the AFC Champions League victory with two goals in the final 15 minutes, prompting the Antlers' coach Masatada Ishii to applaud his substitutes.
Although Kashima had far more shots - 23-9 - compared to Brisbane on Tuesday night, the visitors tested the Antlers' goalkeeper often enough to have earned a point on another occasion.
Brett Holman and Avram Papadopoulos both had good chances to open the scoring in the first half but it was Yuma Suzuki who eventually earned that honour, beating Jamie Young at his near post two minutes before the break.
"I thought we played well in patches but we weren't clinical enough in front of goal," McKay said after the match.
"We now need to recover well, keep the injuries to a minimum.
"We operate with a smaller squad than a lot of other Asian teams so if we can keep as many players on the park as possible then hopefully we can pick up some points in this campaign."
Naomichi Ueda and Yasushi Endo scored in the 76th and 79th minutes, respectively, to ensure a comfortable win for Kashima, with Aloisi admitting his side were hurt by the Antlers' second goal.
"I think that we put in a very good performance until the second goal was scored," Brisbane's boss said according to the Antlers' website.
"[The] Antlers' confidence returned and our morale fell. It was a very disappointing result."
The loss in Japan leaves Roar winless in Group E, while Kashima surged to the top of the standings after losing to Muangthong United on Matchday 2.
Muangthong drew 0-0 away to Ulsan in the other Group E fixture on Tuesday.
Ishii underlined the importance of Suzuki's first-half strike, claiming it set his side up to push for more after the interval.
The introduction of Mitsuo Ogasawara and Daigo Nishi after the hour mark appeared to spark Kashima, with the second two goals coming after Ishii's first substitutions.
"I changed some members and the substitute players showed relatively good performances," Ishii said.
"I think it was good team display."