Arsenal Ladies 6 Fulham LFC 2
FA Women's Premier League

Arsenal Ladies' 6-2 thrashing of Fulham on Saturday saw the Gunners end their season as undefeated Premier League champions.

Arsenal have now been crowned champions four times in the last five seasons and also won the League Cup this year.

Striker Julie Fleeting led the charge against Fulham with a hat-trick which made her the women's game's top scorer in all competitions this season with 21 goals.

The home side completely dominated the match right up to the final whistle, even without captain and defensive dynamo Faye White, who was rested by manager Vic Akers after she helped England to a 1-0 victory in a friendly against Norway on Friday.

As early as the seventh minute livewire forward Lianne Sanderson missed a decent chance when she blazed a volley over the bar following a corner from the right.

Seconds later the rampant Gunners had another opportunity. Top scorer Fleeting latched onto loose passing from the away side and drove into the penalty area, hitting a left-foot shot that produced a good save from the vistors' keeper.

It was only a matter of time before Arsenal's first goal, which came in the 18th minute.

A ball over the top of the Fulham defence found striker Angela Banks, who casually slammed a volley home from inside the penalty area.

Akers' side doubled their advantage just before the break. After good build-up play on the left, Sanderson displayed a lovely first touch to control the ball on the edge of the six-yard box and comfortably finished past the flailing Fulham keeper.

Five minutes into the second half the Gunners made it 3-0. A buoyant Banks teased in a fine cross from the left, which was stroked into the back of the net by Fleeting.

In the 55th minute, the away side scored against the run of play. Sloppy Arsenal defending saw Fulham midfielder Gemma Ritchie find acres of space in the penalty area and she made them pay, finishing well from eight yards.

The goal sparked the Gunners into life again and three minutes later they nearly created their fourth.

A fantastic pinpoint cross-field ball from Sanderson found Fleeting on the left and her dangerous cross was nearly met by the leaping Banks.

Akers' team controlled the game from then on and created several good chances, but didn't bag another goal until the 81st minute.

An awful mix-up in the Fulham defence gifted Fleeting the ball unopposed on the edge of the penalty area and she found the corner of the net.

Three minutes later Arsenal midfielder Jayne Ludlow made it five. After a bout of scrappy ping-pong play in the penalty area the ball came to the Gunners' vice-captain and she finished well from eighteen yards.

On 90 minutes Fulham scored a consolation strike through defensive midfielder Holly Anderson, only for Fleeting to complete her hat-trick in injury time with a close range header.

Akers was pleased with the performance from his side, who clinched the title with a win at Charlton last month.

He said: "It was difficult for us to get up for it today, having already won the league.

"We just wanted to win, score some goals and keep our unbeaten record and we did that. We played some good stuff at times."

Semi-final defeats to Everton in the FA Cup and Swedish side Djurgarden/Alvsjo in the Uefa Cup meant they failed in their attempt to win all four major competitions in the same campaign.

The Gunners manager praised his players despite those disappointments and looked forward to next season.

He said: "The girls have done extremely well, to go unbeaten in the league is a fantastic achievement. Being knocked out of the FA Cup by Everton is disappointing, on our day we would beat them.

"To go out of Europe to a good Swedish side is no disgrace. Every year we are in Europe we learn more and maybe we can go all the way next year."

ARSENAL LADIES: Byrne, Pealling, Wheatley, Grant, Tracy, McBride, Lorton, Ludlow, Smith, Davidson, Sanderson, Fleeting, Banks, Hearn. Goals: Fleeting 3, Ludlow, Sanderson, Banks.

• Angela Banks finished the season as the league's top scorer with 13 goals, one ahead of Julie Fleeting.

• Four Arsenal players played for England against Norway the night before the Fulham game — with midfielder Anita Asante scoring England's only goal in the 1-0 victory.

It was her first international goal in only her second start, and was the first time England had beaten the Scandanavian side.

The other Arsenal stars playing for England were Faye White, Mary Phillip and Kelly Smith.

• Arsenal defender Clare Wheatley is hanging up her boots after ten years in the first team.

During her career she has contributed to five league titles, five League Cups and four FA Cups.

An unbeaten league campaign seemed to be the time to retire.

"There was absolutely no finer way to end it," she said. "My career has been unbelievable, it's something I never imagined I could experience in my lifetime."

Wheatley will continue in her role as Arsenal Ladies Development Officer, but she won't pull on the famous red and white again.

She said: "I'm now a team-mate of Lianne Sanderson and I can remember her in nappies — she calls me 'Mum' and when that happens it's time to hang the boots up."