Urawa Reds on Tuesday became the first J-League club to be eliminated from the AFC Champions League after surrendering two late goals to Suwon Bluewings in a 2-1 defeat.
A victory would have given the 2007 champions a slim chance of progressing to the round of 16, but the result left them with one draw and four losses from five group stage matches.
“I want to apologise to all of the fans who believed in us and cheered us on until the end,” manager Mihailo Petrovic told a gloomy press conference.
“If you look back on our campaign, we simply haven’t clicked as a team beginning with the first match away at Suwon.
“It’s difficult to attach a reason to everything that happens in football. For example, today we played poorly in the first half and it ended scoreless. In the second half we played well but lost 2-1.
“You can always try to come up with a reason after the fact, but it may not always be true.”
Petrovic has come under increasing pressure to deliver the club’s first silverware since 2007. But despite his second group stage exit from the continental tournament since joining Reds in 2012, the Serbian insisted that his J1 League-leading side have plenty to fight for.
“Chelsea are out of the Champions League, and Manchester United aren’t even in the tournament,” Petrovic said. “We may be out of the ACL but our season will continue.
“We have to accept that we lost and make use of what we’ve learned. But now isn’t the right time to discuss that.”
Urawa Reds will face Brisbane Roar for the final match of the group stage on May 5 at Gold Coast Stadium.