LONDON, May 12 (Reuters) - Already-relegated Fulham’s season in the Premier League came to an end with a whimper rather than a bang on Sunday as they were hammered 4-0 at home by Newcastle United.
Goals from Jonjo Shelvey, Ayoze Perez, Fabian Schar and Salomon Rondon helped Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle end their season in 13th place.
“I am really proud of this group of players, and the fans were fantastic. To finish 13th is important for everyone,” Benitez told reporters. “We can see the potential of these players.”
He struck a cautious note over his own future as manager, however, as his talks with Newcastle management continue.
“We’ll see what happens next week,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll find a way to move forward together.”
Scott Parker, now in charge at Fulham on a full-time basis, faces the contrasting task of engineering his side’s return from the second-tier Championship after ending the campaign in 19th place.
Shelvey smashed in his first goal of the season in the ninth minute, bringing down a high corner kick outside the area before unleashing a thunderbolt over the heads of the Fulham defenders and beyond the reach of keeper Sergio Rico.
Perez doubled the visitors’ lead two minutes later when Rico parried a shot from Mohamed Diame straight into the path of the Spaniard, who deftly flicked in his 12th goal of the campaign.
Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fulham’s top scorer for the season with 11 goals, and Floyd Ayite created the home side’s best chances of the game, but they were unable to find the back of the net.
Parker brought on Ryan Babel in the second half. The big German was the inspiration behind a late-season string of wins for Fulham, but he had little impact as the Cottagers posted their 26th loss of the campaign.
Instead, Newcastle’s Schar headed in a Matt Ritchie corner in the 61st minute to make it 3-0, and Rondon snuck in a fourth shortly before the final whistle, bursting into the area and firing straight into Rico’s chest before directing the rebound into the far corner.
“We were lacklustre, we lacked conviction at times and we were vulnerable on the break,” Parker told reporters.
“This club needs a culture, it needs an identity and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said when asked about his hopes for the team.
“I’ve no doubt the owners will be doing everything in their power to keep the best players,” he said, after Fulham spent heavily following their promotion a year ago.
“Standards need to go up at the football club. If me and my coaching staff are driving the culture here, I know we’ll be successful. It’s going to be a busy summer in rebuilding.”
Reporting by Hugh Lawson; editing by Tony Lawrence