Auckland City have struggled against the aggression of Japanese champions Kashima Antlers in going down 2-1 in their Club World Cup match.
The Oceania champions were in front five minutes into the second half thanks to Dae Wook Kim, but Kashima's Shuhei Akasaki levelled on 67 minutes and Mu Kanazaksi grabbed the winner two minutes from time in Yokohama.
"I think that we defended well. In the end we tired a bit," Ramon Tribulietx said.
"Kashima made it very difficult. They were very aggressive and they made our lives very hard.
"Unfortunately we are on the losing side. I'm proud of how we played though. We came very close."
It was difficult to travel to Japan and try to dominate the national champions, who played a different rhythm, Tribulietx said.
"In New Zealand the games are a bit slower, but no excuses, we played a great game and in the end it didn't happen for us today."
Auckland will return home to prepare for their next domestic match, against Eastern Suburbs in Panmure.
The Antlers are representing hosts Japan in the seven-team tournament and next face the South African Sundowns in Osaka on Sunday. The winners of that tie meet European champions Real Madrid in the semi-finals.
The final takes place in Yokohama on December 18.
Auckland were also eliminated in the first round of the annual seven-club tournament last year, beaten 2-0 by Japanese club Sanfrecce Hiroshima.