Bayern Munich were appearing in what would be their second of three consecutive European Cup finals, all of which they would win, and the team contained many great players such as Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller and Uli Hoeneß who had featured heavily in Germany's 1974 World Cup victory the previous season, and as such were heavy favourites. In the 1974–75 Bundesliga season, Bayern had a serious slump after winning the previous three German championships. This was said to be caused by motivational deficits, especially as six of the Bayern players also won the 1972 European championship and the 1974 World Cup. To boot, at the start of the season Paul Breitner moved to Real Madrid.
Bayern became the domestically worst winner of the European Champions Cup up to then, finishing only 10th in the Bundesliga, with even points and a negative goal difference. Only Aston Villa would do domestically worse in the year of their European title win. In 1982, when they defeated Bayern 1–0 in the final, the team from Birmingham finished 11th in the First Division, also with even points, but a positive goal difference. For Bayern coach Dettmar Cramer, who took over from Udo Lattek early in the season, this was the first of three international club titles. He remained without domestic silverware. Franz Roth scored for the second time in a European final, after the Cup Winners' Cup final in 1967, putting Bayern ahead 1–0 in this final, and drew level with Sandro Mazzola from Italy's Internazionale, who achieved this in the champions' finals 1964 and 1967.
For Leeds United, only the second English club to reach the final after Manchester United in 1968 and the second team in history to reach the finals of all three European cup competitions after FC Barcelona, the game was the climax of the 'Glory Years' of the team built by former manager Don Revie. Amongst the stars of the team featured the Scottish internationals Billy Bremner and Peter Lorimer. Leeds United, incidentally also had a poor season domestically. The experienced, but now ageing team had finished only 9th in the 1974–75 Football League. This would be the club's last appearance in a major cup final until the League Cup in 1996. Thus, only the winner of the final between Bayern and Leeds would be entitled to participate in the European Cup competition the following season.
Leeds dominated most of the match and had a number of near misses. After three minutes Bayern's Swedish international defender Björn Andersson had to be replaced by the inexperienced Sepp Weiss after a hard tackle from Terry Yorath, described by Uli Hoeneß as the "most brutal foul I think I have ever seen". He only played a handful more matches for Bayern. In the 23rd minute, Bayern captain Franz Beckenbauer was in his own penalty box on the ground and rested on his left arm which subsequently came into contact with the ball. The Leeds players appealed for a penalty, which the French referee Michel Kitabdjian denied. More controversial, however, was when the referee denied Leeds a penalty in the 34th minute after Beckenbauer tripped Allan Clarke, who was attacking the Bayern goal from the left wing and seemed ready to round Bayern goalkeeper Sepp Maier. The first half also saw German international Uli Hoeneß, later president of Bayern, suffer a serious knee injury in the 42nd minute after a tackle by the Scottish left-back Frank Gray, which would ultimately bring his career to a premature end in 1979 at the age of 27, and thus starting as prematurely his career in club management. He was replaced by one time German international Klaus Wunder.
In the 62nd minute, Billy Bremner was denied from five metres by a reflex of Sepp Maier in the Bayern goal. Less than a minute later a goal by Peter Lorimer was disallowed, due to Bremner being in a tight passive offside position in front of the goal at the six-yard box. Referee Michel Kitabdjian initially pointed to the centre circle (indicating a goal) and then Beckenbauer convinced him to consult with the linesman who had run back to the halfway line and had not raised his flag. The referee then indicated offside against Bremner. This decision caused riots to break out.
After a match interruption Roth finished off a counter-attack in the 71st minute with the 1–0 for Bayern after a short pass from Conny Torstensson. This completely derailed Leeds and 10 minutes later another counter led to the 2–0 for Bayern through Gerd Müller after a cross from the right side by Jupp Kapellmann. This put the match completely beyond the reach of the team from England.
The violence saw Leeds banned from Europe for four years, although this was reduced to two years on appeal. Ultimately, this ban was never applied due to a decline in the performance of the club in the late 1970s preventing European qualification until 1979–80.
Despite Leeds now playing in the second tier of English football, the controversy surrounding the final is still manifested in the chant 'We are the Champions, Champions of Europe' – amid a feeling that the club was cheated of victory – by fans of the club often throughout the half time interval at away games . Bayern would remain one of Europe's top clubs and would go on to victory in the 1976 final, completing a hat-trick of wins – but would ultimately have to wait until 2001 for their fourth title. The appearance of an English club in the final for only the second time would ultimately precede a period of dominance by Football League clubs Liverpool (1977, 1978, 1981, 1984), Aston Villa (1982) and Nottingham Forest (1979 and 1980) of European football. However, the violence and the lengthy ban handed down to Leeds would foreshadow the tragic events in the European Cup final10 years later.