Vissel Kobe remained without a win 10 games into the J-League season as they lost 1-0 at home to local rivals Cerezo Osaka on Sunday.
Former Cerezo manager Miguel Angel Lotina took charge of Vissel for the first time, but the home side trailed at the break and their improved performance in the second half could not buy them a goal at Noevir Stadium.
The signs weren't good from the start for Kobe, with defender Gotoku Sakai needing to clear the ball off the line to deny Hiroto Yamada after two minutes. Keeper Daiya Maekawa was also called into multiple actions before Cerezo's 27th-minute winner.
Left-back Ryosuke Yamanaka whipped in an early cross, and Mutsuki Kato headed into the left bottom corner, the forward leaving the keeper with no chance and handing the visitors a deserved lead.
Kobe's best chance fell on the stroke of half-time when captain Andres Iniesta slalomed his way through a tight space down the left and pulled the ball back for Koya Yuruki, but the midfielder could only hit his effort narrowly over the bar.
While Iniesta was replaced at the break, Kobe had plenty of spells in the opposition half and substitute Bojan Krkic saw a good effort saved from the edge of the box in the 69th minute.
Bojan also created a huge chance in the stoppage time with a cross from the left, but center-back Ryuho Kikuchi's header cannoned off the right post as Kobe, third in J1 last year, fell to their third straight defeat.
"I'm sorry we could not get the win today. We wanted to go into the (Asian) Champions League on the back of a win," said Lotina ahead of Kobe's continental campaign starting next week in Thailand.
"I know you fans are worried about where we are in the standing currently, but we have players with high quality, we can improve, and we still have time...I'll definitely build a strong team."
Elsewhere, Yokohama F Marinos rose to second after ending Kashima Antlers' five-game winning run with a late 3-0 away win. They are level on 18 points, two off leaders Kawasaki Frontale.
FC Tokyo had a scoreless draw against Urawa Reds, while Sanfrecce Hiroshima scored late to edge Avispa Fukuoka 1-0 both at home. Gamba Osaka also had a late goal as they drew 1-1 away to Shimizu S-Pulse.
Consadole Sapporo won 2-0 away to Nagoya Grampus, while Shonan Bellmare had a 0-0 home draw with Jubilo Iwata to remain without a win and bottom of the league with three points, one below Kobe.