CHIBA — A first-half goal from Alex gave Kashiwa Reysol a 1-0 win over JEF United Chiba on Saturday, and consigned its beleaguered local rival to a sixth-straight league defeat in the process.

Reysol largely outclassed a ponderous, disjointed JEF side, which failed to put away a series of golden chances when it finally managed to find some cohesion late in the second half.

JEF, which changed its manager and sold five international players in the offseason, now looks in real trouble.

The Chiba club is firmly rooted to the bottom of the table having taken just two points from its first 10 matches, and manager Josip Kuze is feeling the strain.

“It is terrible because we tried to prepare for a fighting game. We tried everything, but they scored very easily and we just couldn’t score,” he said.

“OK, our level of play is not so high and anyway we have no luck. We couldn’t score clear chances. We must analyze our situation, and we will try to change the selection. We will try to work harder. Maybe in the future we can make some better results.”

Kuze confirmed the club has been actively trying to recruit new players, and the Croatian insists reinforcements are badly needed.

“Our players try,” he said. “They are trying to make this up but we have problems in midfield because we lost a lot of players from our midfield.

“Reinaldo was very good in the second half, but that is our problem because he is a strong player and he has played only one or two games.”

Chances were at a premium in a cagey start to the match, with Reysol happy to sit back and wait for the moment to set striker Popo off on darting runs at the JEF defense.

Hidekazu Otani’s pace was also causing problems for the home side, and defender Eddy Bosnar received the first booking of the match for a clumsy lunge at the Kashiwa midfielder with less than 10 minutes on the clock.

With JEF looking to impose its physical superiority, it was no surprise that its best chances came from set pieces.

First Bosnar came close to connecting with Mirko Hrgovic’s free-kick, before another delivery from the midfielder narrowly evaded both Shohei Ikeda and Bosnar to roll just wide of the post.

JEF’s missed opportunities allowed Kashiwa to establish a foothold, and Popo smashed a stinging drive into the side-netting in the 35th minute as Reysol upped the tempo.

Minutes later, Alex gave the visitors the lead. The Brazilian whipped in a free-kick intended for defender Masahiro Koga, only to see the ball skim over his head and straight into the back of the net.

Reysol continued to push in search of another with half-time approaching, and Popo’s determination to charge down a clearance from Ikeda summed up the difference in attitude between the two sides.

Kashiwa kept up the attack in the second half, as Keisuke Ota and Jiro Kamata both went close, and Popo stuck the ball into the net only to see the linesman’s flag raised on the far side.

But after struggling to create any real chances for most of the match, JEF suddenly began to click with 20 minutes left to play.

Tatsuya Yazawa should have done better as he dragged his shot wide of the post, before Hrgovic threw away a glorious chance to draw level when he missed the target from 10 meters after a superb pullback from Reinaldo.

The Brazilian’s appearance as a second-half substitute had given JEF new impetus, but his clever runs went unrewarded as his teammates spurned chance after chance in a late burst of sustained pressure.

Kashiwa ‘keeper Takanori Sugeno saved at the feet of Takuya Kokeguchi with the substitute clean through on goal, and Reinaldo headed wide soon after as time ticked toward 90 minutes.

Sugeno, making his first appearance of the season, received a late caution for time-wasting, but his late saves did enough to make sure his side took all three points, and pushed their Chiba rivals even deeper into the relegation mire.

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