Dalian Yifang coach Bernd Schuster claimed Brazilian striker Diego Tardelli was the deciding factor as his side slipped to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Shandong Luneng on Saturday evening.
Tardelli scored both goals as Li Xiaopeng's side moved back to within six points of Chinese Super League leaders Shanghai SIPG, who won their sixth game in a row on Friday evening against Hebei China Fortune.
Shandong now sit just a point behind defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande in third place while Dalian, winners of last season's second division title, are still looking for their first win of the season.
Tardelli put Shandong in front after 32 minutes before he netted from the spot 11 minutes from time to secure all three points for his team.
"The two teams were evenly matched," said Schuster, who replaced Ma Lin at the helm last month. "If we had Tardelli, we would have won 2-0.
"Even though we conceded the first goal, it didn't affect our setup. That happened in the second half when we were looking for an equaliser and the penalty sealed our fate. This is a very regrettable way to lose the game."
Dalian are bottom of the table with just two points from their first six games and level with Changchun Yatai, who play Henan Jianye on Sunday.
Meanwhile, John Obi Mikel scored his first goal of the season as the former Chelsea midfielder helped Tianjin Teda to a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Guangzhou R&F.
Chen Zhizhao gave R&F the lead after just eight minutes but Mikel levelled the scores in the 27th minute when he back-heeled the ball over the line from close range. Hui Jiakang scored what turned out to be the winner just two minutes later.
The win moves Teda onto eight points from their first six games, and one point ahead of cross-city rivals Tianjin Quanjian into eighth place.
Beijing Renhe secured their second win of the season over fellow strugglers Guizhou Zhicheng, with Jaime Ayovi scoring the decider for the newly promoted team 16 minutes from time.