Having beaten Antwerp in the same competition in the previous year, Parma were aiming to become the first side to win consecutive finals; five sides had previously failed to do so after reaching the final for a consecutive year. The final was the first time that Parma had come up against English opposition. On the other hand, Arsenal had three times played out two-legged affairs with Italian clubs. The first meeting was in the 1970–71 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, when they overcame Lazio 4–2 on aggregate, drawing the first leg in Rome and winning the second leg 2–0 at Highbury. Arsenal had also faced Italians in the 1979–80 European Cup Winners' Cup at the semi-final stage; Arsenal won 2–1 on aggregate. The most recent meeting was in the quarter-finals of this year's competition, where they overcame Torino 1–0 over two legs.
A crowd of 33,765 witnessed a tactical match. Parma’s Tomas Brolin hit the post early on but, in the 20th minute, Lorenzo Minotti miss-hit an overhead clearance and Alan Smith capitalized, beating Luca Bucci with a left-footed volley. Arsenal then invited pressure from Parma but, by controlling Gianfranco Zola and Faustino Asprilla, defended their lead and became the fourth London club to win the trophy. The final was noted for Arsenal fans singing "one nil to the Arsenal" throughout the match.
Arsenal were without their leading goalscorer Ian Wright, who missed the final through suspension as well as the injured John Jensen.