Arsenal Ladies remain two points clear of Leeds United with a game in hand after thrashing Sunderland 9-0 at the weekend.

Vic Akers' side needed a victory to keep their closest rivals at arm's length and they got it thanks to a hat-trick from Jayne Ludlow and further goals from Kelly Smith, Karen Carney, Alex Scott, Gemma Davison, Lianne Sanderson and Katie Chapman.

Despite very strong winds in the North-East, Arsenal got off to a flying start when Smith netted within 30 seconds. Sunderland lost the ball from their own kick off and Smith skilfully ran through their defence to calmly shoot past the goalkeeper.

Arsenal didn't give Sunderland a chance to relax and within 10 minutes they were 2-0 up through Ludlow's first of the game. Despite the weather Arsenal managed to play some great one and two-touch football and at times left the Sunderland defence chasing shadows. It was no surprise when Chapman and Ludlow scored to give the champions a four-goal half-time lead.

Sunderland came out fighting in the second half and were almost rewarded, only for a superb save by Emma Byrne to deny the home side. Arsenal stepped up the tempo once more and goals from Scott, Carney, Sanderson and Davison made it 8-0. Then Ludlow completed her hat-trick with a late strike.

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15 Jan 2007