LONDON, April 2 (Reuters) – WATFORD 4 FULHAM 1
Fulham were relegated from the Premier League after collapsing to a 4-1 defeat at Watford on Tuesday, a result which left them 16 points adrift of the safety zone with five games remaining.
The West London side, owned by American businessman Shahid Khan, return to the second-tier Championship just a season after winning the promotion playoffs.
They go down with Huddersfield Town, who on Saturday became only the second team to be relegated from the Premier League before the end of March.
The third relegation spot is currently occupied by Cardiff City but Burnley, Southampton and Brighton & Hove Albion are all just five points above the Welsh side.
Fulham went into the game knowing they had to avoid defeat to extend their battle against the drop but Abdoulaye Doucoure put Watford ahead in the 23rd minute with a superb left-foot strike from the edge of the box after bursting from midfield.
Fulham, who have not won away all season, fought back to score through Ryan Babel 10 minutes later, the Dutchman latching on to a pass from Ryan Sessegnon and rounding keeper Ben Foster before slotting home.
But after Will Hughes restored Watford’s lead in the 63rd minute with a thundering volley from the edge of the box, Fulham fell to pieces.
Troy Deeney made it 3-1 with a tap-in six minutes later and Kiko Femenia added the fourth in the 75th to complete Fulham’s misery.
Fulham were promoted to the top flight after beating Aston Vila in the playoff final but despite Khan investing an estimated £100 million in new players, the biggest spend by any promoted club, they struggled from the outset with manager Slavisa Jokanovic sacked in mid-November.
Italian Claudio Ranieri was brought in but failed to turn things around for the West London club and was also sacked, on Feb. 28, with former player Scott Parker taking over.
“Obviously bitterly disappointed, devastated for the football club and fans,” Parker told the BBC.
“We always knew it was a tough ask. It’s the way we lost the game which was most disappointing for me.”
Asked where the season had gone wrong, 38-year-old former England midfielder Parker was reluctant to offer an explanation.
“I think in the initial reaction – I have ideas of (where it went wrong) but it’s not the time to broadcast it. When a club gets relegated you know there are some serious issues.
“At this moment in time, I’m not thinking anything. Just pure disappointment,” he said.
But Fulham’s U.S defender Tim Ream slammed their approach.
“We haven’t shown a togetherness, unity, desire, passion. We’ve shown it in bits and pieces in the first half then go dead and flat.
“What we do in the match is a product of what we do between Monday to Friday,” he said.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris)