26th April Ingolstadt 0 Eintracht Braunschweig 1 2.Bundesliga 9,471 (3,000 away)
Ingolstadt’s relatively new stadium is on the outside of town and it has an airy feel with the space between the roofs and the seating making for a more comfortable watch on a warm Friday evening.
The visitors brought a large contingent, who packed the away terrace, many of whom were drinking outside in the sunshine before the game.
They would no doubt be enjoying some more afterwards as their team confirmed their place in the Bundesliga for the first time in 28 years with this win.
Most of the match was too fragmented with slow build ups, misplaced passing and not much goalmouth incident.
Eintracht top scorer Domi Kumbela did have his chance but he mis-kicked wide when through on goal.
And so it was left to Bosnian Vrancic to supply the winner with a very late free kick and (literally) spark the celebrations.
Like many this new ground uses the fan card system for purchases of refreshments. It meant I saved some cash but went thirsty.
Getting back to the main station for my train to Nurnberg was not as easy as in most places, not helped by the rain.
27th April Alemannia Aachen 1 Heidenheim 2 3.Liga 7,326 (100 away)
I took the early train to Frankfurt then on to Aachen for this 3rd level encounter between bottom club Alemannia and Heidenheim in 5th.
The new Tivoli stadium is close to the old ground and it is sizeable and impressive, more like a Bundesliga setup rather than for a team (at best) playing in the Regionalliga.
Because Aachen have had their problems and they had more on the pitch, not helped by a red card for defender Brauer.
Alemannia missed a great first half chance when two players broke away only for one to overhit the vital pass.
But in general the visitors looked better in possession.
They took the lead when the home captain Herroder headed a weak back pass and sub. Bagceci pounced.
The crucial second came from a penalty after Deutsche was brought down.
And although Alemannia did get a late consolation it was never enough.
That home goal did give some encouragement to the locals and the large end terrace would undoubtedly produce plenty of noise if and when matters improve.
27th April Fortuna Dusseldorf 1 Borussia Dortmund 2 Bundesliga 54,000 (5,000 away)
The ‘double’ from Aachen to Dusseldorf proved somewhat fraught.
The taxi from the Tivoli to the main station worked fine but my scheduled train was cancelled and the connection via Cologne failed as well leaving me on a slow train to Dusseldorf.
So, with less than 30 minutes to kickoff, I took advice from some locals and got off at Neuss from where I took another taxi to the Esprit Arena and made it to my seat just as the game began.
In many countries it would have been very difficult to make the start because of the traffic going to a sellout game but here nearly everyone was there (stereotypically ?) early.
The game proved the strength of Borussia who started with just one player (Hummels) from their usual eleven ahead of their second leg Champions League encounter with Real Madrid.
Despite a brisk start from Fortuna the visitors, backed a large away group of fans, went ahead when the excellent Sahin shot in an opportunistic left footer from 30 yards.
He would play a starring role in this victory, also supplying the pass from which sub. Blaszczykowski scored the second on 70 minutes.
We also saw twenty minutes of Dortmund hero Lewandowski as well as a late appearance by Marco Reus.
Fortuna, in danger of relegation, certainly had their moments and especially threatened from crosses, finally scoring when Bodzek headed in at the far post.
Before that they were denied what seemed a definite penalty when Hummels handled.
But despite some late drama Borussia held on to maintain their momentum going into the vital Madrid match.
The atmosphere was noisy but it was interesting to note that if the stadium had larger, central, end terrace sections (as at Aachen or Mainz) the experience would have been even better.
Getting away on the U-Bahn was well organised and, though crowded, less fraught than getting there. ‘Dinner’ was a chocolate bar and a Jack Daniels + coke drink.
28th April Mainz 0 Eintracht Frankfurt 0 Bundesliga 34,000 (5,000 away)
A cool Sunday morning in Mainz and you can wander around the market areas before getting the bus to the Coface Arena for the Rhine-Main derby.
The locals certainly provided a decent rendition of ‘You’ll never walk alone’ as well as some pre-game choreo.
But the game itself proved a typical derby encounter with hectic midfield action and too many misplaced passes.
Both sides had missed first half chances, Muller for Mainz and Russ for Frankfurt.
And then Rode had probably the best of opportunity of all in the second period, after a Caligiuri error, but Wetklo saved his effort.
So a disappointing game despite the atmosphere.
I warmed up afterwards with a Thai yellow curry and some wine.
29th April Energie Cottbus 4 Kaiserslautern 2 2. Bundesliga 7,545 (700 away)
By far the best game of the five on this trip.
My pre-booked train from Mainz to Leipzig left very late but managed to make up enough time for me to make my planned connection to Cottbus.
So there was time for a wander around the centre, have an ice-cream, and note the bilingual signs and realise you’re not far from Poland.
The ground is an easy stroll along a riverbank and past the planetarium.
Kaiserslautern are in third and they brought a good number of fans placed in a terrace behind one goal.
The home fans supplied the choreo and provided decent support throughout.
Right from the beginning this game delivered action with Mohammadou Idrissou, in bright orange boots, the centre of early attention, soon getting a yellow card for arguing.
He would score an impressive header from a corner early in the second half.
But before that the home side, slightly against the run of play, had gone ahead when young Weiser brought down Rivic and Banovic converted the penalty.
Energie’s top scorer Ivorian Boubacar Sanogo scored their second from a right wing cross and he would also be involved in the third as sub. Fomitschow delivered at the far post.
This was hard on the visitors and they reduced the arrears with a penalty after Riedel was tripped.
But with the action continuing to the final minutes and Kaiserslautern pushing forward a Cottbus break resulted in a chip over the goalie and an easy goal for Sanogo.
An excellent match to finish this trip.
more pictures at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/1868112943