41 Years Ago Today: Leeds Mugged by Ref & Kaiser in European Cup Final – by Rob Atkinson


Yorath avoids a red card - but nothing else went right for Leeds United

Yorath avoids a red card – but nothing else went right for Leeds United

The Great European Cup Final Robbery occurred exactly forty=one years ago today – half a lifetime’s distance in the past – and yet this, more than just about any other of the many injustices suffered by that legendary team, still sticks in the collective craw of Leeds United fans, many of whom weren’t even born on that balmy May night so long ago. It still rankles with us, to the extent that it defines how we feel about our much sinned-against club to this day. So, 41 years on, we still sing “We are the Champions, Champions of Europe” in ritual protest – but in our hearts, believing, knowing it to be true.

The story of this match may be summed up in a series of snapshots; incidents that told us, ever more clearly as the game progressed, which way the wind was blowing. There was a pair of blatant penalty shouts in the first half, the guilty man on both occasions being Franz “der Kaiser” BeckenbauerFirst he handled obviously and unmissably in the area, and then followed that up by perpetrating an illegal “scissors” tackle on Allan Clarke, inside the box on the left – you wondered how anyone could possibly fail to give either decision, unless they were irretrievably, foully bent. But the corkscrew-straight Michel Kitabdjian unblushingly neglected his duty on both occasions, earning himself a permanent place in every Leeds fan’s Little Black Book.

Before these vital non-decisions, Terry Yorath – the first Welshman to play in Europe’s biggest match, before Gareth Bale was even a twinkle in his dad’s eye – had sailed into Bayern’s Björn Andersson in what team-mate Uli Hoeness described as “the most brutal foul I think I have ever seen”. The only question arising out of that first period of play was whether Leeds United’s card was marked by the ref from the time of that 4th minute assault by Yorath – or whether, indeed, the matter was decided long before kick off. 

Lorimer's greatest goal that never was

Lorimer’s greatest goal that never was

Leeds were completely outplaying Bayern, drawing sympathy even from the English TV commentator who was bemoaning the lack of a more even contest. Then, in the second half, the ball fell perfectly for Peter Lorimer just outside the Bayern penalty area. Lorimer timed his volley superbly, and it flew into the net, beating Sepp Maier all ends up. Immediately, all was confusion as the goal seemed to be given, until Beckenbauer urgently directed the ref to speak to his linesman. More confusion – and, scandalously, the goal was disallowed. Bayern scored twice against a demoralised Leeds near the end, and the European Cup was snatched from the hands of Revie’s old guard; the triumph that was to crown their magnificent careers torn away in the most dubious fashion imaginable.

It was the second of a hat-trick of sketchy triumphs for Bayern from 1974-76, at a time when the German influence in UEFA was as strong as that of the Italians (whose Milan side had taken the Cup Winners Cup from Leeds in an even more bent match two years earlier) – and far, far stronger than that of the unpopular English. This defeat of a gallant and far superior on the night United side was probably the luckiest Munich victory of the three – but a year before, they’d been on the point of losing to Atlético Madrid before a last-gasp equaliser enabled them to win in a one-sided replay. And, in 1976, Bayern were outplayed by St Etienne, but managed somehow to prevail for a third year on the trot.

Bremner in disbelief after Leeds' "goal" chalked off

Bremner disbelieving after Leeds’ “goal” chalked off

Leeds fans will always look at the collection of stars emblazoned arrogantly over the Bayern badge – and we will always say: one of those should have been ours. May 28 1975 was one of those pivotal nights in United’s history and, as happened frankly far too often, things turned against us – setting us on the low road when we should have been triumphantly plotting a course onwards and upwards. Things were never the same for Leeds United afterwards; Johnny Giles played his last game in a white shirt that night, which signalled the start of the break-up process, under the continuing stewardship of Jimmy Armfield, for Don Revie’s peerless Super Leeds team. How different things might have been – but that’s the story of our great club’s history; fortune has rarely smiled upon us and justice has usually gone AWOL at the crucial moments.

So it was then, so it has been ever since and so, doubtless, it will continue to be for Leeds – who always seem to cop for the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to a pitilessly unfair degree. Still, that’s why we love ’em, and that’s why we so relish the hate of others. But if there could have been one night when things went right – when we actually managed once to get our just deserts – then really it should have been that evening in the Parc des Princes in May 1975. Not for me, not for you – but chiefly for those white-shirted heroes who had waited so long to be acknowledged as the best in Europe, and who had proved it by outplaying the favourites – before being gruesomely cheated yet again.

Leeds United – Champions of Europe. We all know we have a right to sing that song, loud and proud. Long may it continue to serve as a reminder of the night that the “Der Kaiser & Kitabdjian” double-act robbed The Greatest of their rightful crown.

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48 responses to “41 Years Ago Today: Leeds Mugged by Ref & Kaiser in European Cup Final – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Ian Finlay

    I remember it well,just 13 at the time,a few older mates on my street went to the game, and I was gutted not to go,After the match,went to my room and remember crying buckets,Too many memories of being robbed , cheated, being unlucky,, but as you say , that’s why we love em. By the way enjoyed a lot of good football under jimmy armfield, MOT

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    • Steven Hopkinson

      Steve Hopkinson – Just turned seventeen the week before, i sat halfway up the stairs and cried a bucket load, my mom tried to consol me good bless her but she was fighting a loosing battle. If they had out played us fair enough but not like this!

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  2. keith white

    I was virtually there – attended all games up to the final but didn’t have a ticket so had to settle for watching in a pub outside the ground – cried myself to sleep that night

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  3. I was a 12 year old boy travelling home from a school trip and still in France that night trying as hard as i could to pick up the commentary on radio 2 on the coach radio. As the signal flickered on and off i only managed to get snippets of what was going on but i still remember when the signal finally stablised and reception was clear the game was over and the crushing words of 2-0 came through loud and clear. As i burst into tears a girl behind me reached over to comfort me with the words ‘its only a game Neil’. How little she understood. I still can’t bring myself to actually watch the game and don’t think i ever will. Even though my passion for Leeds now is a shadow of its 12 year schoolboy self, that was my team and that was our day and once again we failed to get our deserved rewards. The greatest team never to win the European cup without contest. God bless everyone of them.

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  4. A couple of points. The foul by Yorath WAS a shocker and could well have left Leeds with 10 men. It also ended Bjorn Andersson’s career (so thank goodness his Abba sideline was starting to take off). Leeds may have dominated and unquestionably should’ve had a penalty for Beckenbauer’s foul on Clarke, but IMHO we didn’t play well – too often we ended up lumping the ball in high to Joe Jordan from deep positions and hoping for a break, instead of getting in round the back or crossing from the dead-ball line.

    By the way, this being Leeds and dodgy refereeing decisions being a major part of our history, may I submit a rival for Peter Lorimer’s ‘greatest goal that never was’ — the brutal 20-yard free-kick against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park in 1967, disallowed by Mr Ken Burns because Chelsea ‘weren’t ready’… Just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they”re not out to get you.

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    • Dont forget wes brown scoring the only offside own goal I’ve ever seen.

      I know under purple nose man u nearly always had 12 men on the pitch, but that was a ridiculous decision.

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      • It bloody was. I believe we’re also the only club who have had a ref celebrating – literally punching the air in delight – a goal against us (at Anfield).

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    • Andersson left Bayern in ’76, but then played over 74 matches in Sweden over the next few years with Osters, Markaryds and Vallentuna so perhaps “career ending at Bayern” and not of his footballing days, but yes it was a shocking tackle by Yorath. I was surprised to see that Andersson is youth coach at Bayern, and he must be pretty bloody good at his job!
      Dodgy refereeing submission from me would be the decision to not award a penalty and send off Eddie Macreadie for almost decapitating Billy Bremner at Old Trafford in the replay. More stolen silverware because no way would Chelsea have recovered from that position if justice had prevailed.

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  5. I remember watching a dvd of the match rob,some time ago,and ur not exaggerating when u say of the most blatant and obvious penalty shouts.stonewall dosent do it justice.and lorimars goal.what the f…k was that cancelled out for….where was the referee from.

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  6. After seeing United blatantly robbed by a bribed referee – proven – in Salonika two years earlier, I didn’t think we could be turned over by a bad referee in the European Cup Final. Surely, after what happened in Salonika, they would make sure we got a fair shot this time.Wrong !! I was actually in the wing stand overlooking the left of the penalty area, and it was as blatant a penalty as you will ever see when Beckenbaeur took out Sniffer. No need for t.v. replays, the naked eye was more than adequate. Unless, of course, you didn’t want to see it ! Also, as everybody there and the millions watching on t.v. know, Lorimer’s goal should have counted. People have told me I am bitter. Too right, pal ! Just to finish it off, the cross-channel ferries went on strike and we were stranded for two days. All in life’s rich tapestry for a Leeds United supporter.

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  7. If I remember rightly, Rob, a couple of years previous to this there had been another controversy in which Leeds were robbed by the referee. In the European Cup Winners Cup Final we lost 1-0 to AC Milan, but the Greek(?) crowd booed the ref most of the match because of his clear bias. In fact,if I remember rightly, a UEFA panel decided the ref had been so bad that they banned him from further games, and there were serious accusations of gold watches being provided by AC Milan for the refereeing group.Despite this, UEFA refused to take the title off AC Milan!
    We do have serious complaints about refereeing in the 70’s!!

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  8. wetherby white

    oh god rob why did you have to bring this match up again. Years of therapy and ive still never got over it! I was 15 at the time, not allowed to go (like I could afford to) and remember demolishing my bedroom after the match,then my dad walking in and demolishing me,
    Classic pic I remember is from behind the Bayern goal and all their players trudging back to the half way line, eyes left and ref rushing to consult linesman with his bung under serious threat.
    No wonder the leeds fans went mental, it was robbery and seventies european football corruption at its worst.
    Is it true that bent Kitabjian never reffed at that level again – if at all?
    The only good thing to come out of that night was the “champions of Europe” chant at ER and best time Ive ever heard it was Leeds Brighton in last home match of 82 when we got relegated week later at WBA. Any other sad old buggers out there remember that Brighton match?

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    • More comments from you please, Wetherby – that was fantastic! I know the ECWC Final ref, Michas, who fixed the Milan match in Salonika, was banned afterwards – but I believe that Kitabdijan also never got another high-level appointment. As for the Brighton match, I remember it well – it looked as though Kevin “Jasper” Hird was going to become a United all-time hero – till we went and got beat at WBA who then cravenly lost at Stoke to keep the Potters up at our expense – petty revenge I call it, just because we smashed their poxy ground up…

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      • There were about 400 Leeds fans there that night at the Stoke West brom game which confirmed our relegation . Both ends were singing we hate Leeds songs . Fortunately to en our misery I’m sure it was 3-0 and all over at half time so we surprised a few gobby Stoke fans with a smack in the mouth and left early , getting back to the Royal Oak at Kippax for quarter past ten .

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  9. I lived in Germany in 1975 , the German media reported that leeds were robbed. Leeds United were admired by the majority of Germans. Bayer Munich are not the most popular club over there.

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    • Yes i’ve heard bayern are like the german man u, armchair fans everywhere but Munich, lots of favours from the football authorities etc..

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  10. I was 16 and wactched it on TV with my Dad, who said straight after the match that the ref must have been bribed. I still feel sick that we were done out of what was rightfully ours that night.

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  11. Rob, as they say in Munchen….Wir haben mit Ihm weg, so fich dich. We got away with it, so fuck you. need I say more.

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  12. Are we jinxed or cursed or both?

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  13. I was 14 and sat with the family watching it on telly. I’ve never jumped off the couch so much in my life, for the handball, the Clarke penalty travesty and Lorimer’s fabulous volley. When it was disallowed I forgot myself and swore out loud. I thought I’d cop it from my Dad but he kept quiet. I think I’d said what he was thinking but didn’t want an earful from Mum!

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    • That’s uncanny. It’s virtually identical to the last detail to the scene in our front room. I also barked my knuckles on the stone fireplace when either Roth or Müller scored – I forget which. Possibly both!

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  14. Unfortunatley my dad was a Cee U Next Tuesday and a Town fan to boot ,, I was 11yr old and sent to bed without being allowed to watch it on TV or listen to it on a radio , sad but true ,, but to be honest rob I didn’t understand the importance of the cup at that age , to me the FA cup was always the one and in many ways still is ,, I suppose it was one of my first memorys , the 72 & 73 finals , I’d still take an FA cup win at wembley above all the rest rob , but that’s just my age and era I guess

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  15. goole white

    you mentioned 73 cup final , Sunderland, another robbery
    m o t

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  16. geoff gane

    I hated Leeds in the 1970s, but, boy, did I cry all that night when they were robbed. Apart from winning the League in 1992, they have never recovered. I hope I live to see the day when they win another trophy or two as well as win the Premiership and then go on to win what was rightfully theirs in 1975.

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  17. Belfast White

    Could we be victims of an Illuminati plot? 🙂 When you think of the list of reprobates who have mismanaged our club since…Publicity Pete, Krasner, Norman Bates, Give False Hope, and now MESSimo. It can’t be just down to misfortune to be owned by these despots.

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  18. cup winners cup ,european cup,robbed by bent refs twice if yoraths tackle was a sending off so was toss pot and his hand ball. plus his dirty bad cross tackle on snlffer .least yorath took it as well as giving it ,not like cheat beckenbaur rolling about like a chicken with broken wing

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  19. Philip of Spain.

    Stop whinging, we lost,cheated yes,but lost.Wolves Monday after cup final,West Brom debacle.Still lost,stop moaning..Its ancient history we got cheated.Its Leeds don’t forget.

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  20. Hi Rob, Had to reply to this. I was nearly 8 at the time and watched the game at home with my dad. The match is something I have watched many times since but I remember that night, my dads frustration and my sadness not seeing Billy Bremner and Leeds United pick up a trophy they richly deserved after 10 years of football mastery.
    Leeds were a team who never had a scrap of good fortune when they needed it most and their record under the Don should be double, even treble what they won in silverware.
    That said they were a marvellous team. Nobody was as consistent and nobody was as good despite what a few books might say. anybody who watched them from 64-75 was extremely fortunate because as Allan Clarke once said ” This happens once in a lifetime” and he was right.
    Never below 4th in the league 65-74.
    10 finals in 11 seasons and 3 European Finals in 5 seasons.
    Fabulous team, Leeds United could never be denied there place in the pantheon of all time greats

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  21. Der Kaiser’s Jammy Bayern band

    It was 40 years ago today
    The boys went to Paris to play
    Against a lucky German mob
    Who would cheat us, steal and rob

    Up against a dodgy ref
    Who was blind, dumb and deaf
    Gave us nothing like a miser
    Gave everything to Der Kaiser

    Scored a great goal after an hour
    Ok’d by all except Beckenbauer
    He’d fouled Billy before Lorro’s elegance
    Then overruled the ref with his arrogance

    As bad as his hack at Clarke
    A penalty seen all over the park
    Except by the one who controlled
    Doing just what he was told

    So let me introduce to you
    Still gloating after all these years
    Kaiser Beck and the Jammy Bayern Band

    etc (with apologies to McCartney-Lennon)

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  22. Picture of beckenbauer with that fine upstanding chap chuck blazer

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  23. I too disliked Leeds too in the seventies, as a supporter of another team I had to, they were the best and kept winning all the time, but also and here’s the main reason, everybody supported them or followed them where I lived. You asked another kid, “what team do you support”? It would almost invariably be followed by “Leeds”. If you followed another team back then you were almost an outsider, Leeds were by far the most high profile club back then. What makes this unusual I suppose, is that I lived in the south, Hertfordshire to be precise, yet everyone followed Leeds, of course we had the smattering of Spurs, Arsenal, and Chelsea fans, but nowhere near the amount that said that Leeds were their team.
    I was nine at the time this game was played and still remember a conversation I had with a schoolmate called Ian Arnold the very next day in the school playground, I said even if Leeds had won the penalty that wasn’t given they would still have lost, he then retorted, “if we had scored from the penalty, that goal would have changed the whole pattern of the game” A particularly enlightening comment when you look at it from a nine year old.

    Leeds, and with the benefit of hindsight, were a great team and deserved more than they got from those finals. I never quite understood to this day why so many kids followed Leeds back then, but maybe as a small boy you don’t realise how far away Leeds was, and maybe explains why to this day, I just don’t get why so many people follow a football club miles away from where they come from, no need to mention who I am referring to here is there? However with the media coverage that Leeds got back then in those halcyon days they were a big draw to a young boy. Whether you liked Leeds or disliked them you could never ignore them. Here’s hoping that Leeds can get back to the top table once again.

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  24. Dave Lewis

    I remember the game well. Leeds ripped them apart and the disallowed goal was a joke. Totally robbed. And that from a Huddersfield Town lifelong fan. Sometimes you just have to be on the side of what’s right.

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  25. Unfortunately, I remember it like yesterday. I was 14 at the time and living in Paris with my parents. I tried all I could to get a ticket for the game without much success, so I had to do with watching it at a friend’s house (Dutch Ajax supporter) not far from Parc de Princes with my twin brother, who supported Bayern (he’s dead now, but I never forgave him). We played Bayern of the park and the injustice of it all made me cry myself to sleep that night. I will never get over it. However, winning the Champions League in my lifetime would probably make it a little less painful to think about. MOT.

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  26. I have never felt more cheated. I have a DvD of both games but never watched them as even the thought of the game still depresses me. Every time l see Beckenbauer l immediately think cheat. He totally tarnished what was previously a superb reputation,

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  27. Philip of Spain.

    Waffle waffle, wank wank, drone.

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  28. I was there that night, the first time I had been out of England. Everything was going so well that day. We had a great day, glorious weather, and for once the Leeds fans completely outnumbered the opposition. If you watch the dvd or look at the pictures it looks like Bayern scored infront of our end because of all the Leeds flags and banners in their end. Everything was perfect including the performance, and could only be spoiled by a poor referee. Football was different in those days and Terry Yorath not being sent off for that foul was not unusual, it was a hard game played by hard men. The crowd trouble wasn’t just a reaction to that particular game, but more of how many times we had been robbed by poor refereeing since Villa Park in 1967. Yes there were a few times when that team choked under the pressure but they missed out on many more honours by being cheated by referees and authorities that never missed an opportunity to stack the odds against them. Can you imagine the outrage if Manchester or Arsenal or Chelsea or anyone would have been made to play an away match the day before a European semi final as part of nine games in sixteen days as Leeds had to in 1970. Yes, we were robbed a lot, but the 1975 European Cup final hurt the most

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  29. sheridan 86/87

    Bayern have officially won the EC 5 times yet still only (!) have 4 stars above their badge….Guilty conscience…?

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  30. king sniffer

    I was 12 and watched it at our chalet in Withernsea with my Mum and Dad and friend who was staying with us. I’ll never forget the feeling of pure nausea as it became apparent that we were not going to be allowed to win. At the final whistle the 4 of us just walked down to the beach and sat staring out at the sea for about an hour in tears and complete silence. Kaiser my arse, Shiester more like. MOT

    Like

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