'It’s not winning a trophy, but it felt like it was' -- Former Portsmouth favourite and ex-Rangers midfielder Pedro Mendes recalls Manchester City heroics to kick-start Great Escape and explains why it's on par with FA Cup success
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The former midfielder said it’s easy to downplay the significance of his two goals against the Citizens on day March 11 day in 2006 – especially when the club lifted the Cup just two years later.
Yet, both magic moments retain special significance for him – and can’t be separated, as far as he’s concerned.
The Portuguese was back on the south coast last Friday, taking the pitch in the star-studded Lee Rigby Memorial Cup at AFC Portchester.
It was a rare trip back to these parts following two-and-a-half years at Fratton Park, when he amassed 68 appearances and was a key figure in not only Pompey’s highest-ever Premier League finish, but also the Great Escape and their 2008 Cup win at Wembley.
All three provide treasured memories for the now 43-year-old former Spurs and Rangers favourite.
Yet Mendes’ own personal contribution to the Blues’ top-flight survival in 2006 provides him with just as much pride as being part of the FA Cup-winning side that ended the club’s near 70-year wait for another win the famous old competition.
With Harry Redknapp’s then Pompey side eight points adrift of Premiership safety in March of that year, gaining three points against Manchester City at Fratton Park was essential.
That looked unlikely with the scores level at 1-1 heading into injury-time.
But that soon changed thanks to the Portuguese, who netted one of the most iconic goals scored at PO4 to send the home fans in raptures.
That moment sparked the Great Escape, with the Blues securing their top-flight status on the penultimate day of the2005-06 season at Wigan.
And looking back on that moment of Pompey history, the former midfielder believes the importance of both his goals that day against City can’t ever be underestimated.
Mendes said: ‘The goals against Manchester City are right up there with lifting the FA Cup, because they gave us the victory in what was a key and such an important moment for us.
‘It’s important not to downplay the importance of those goals. It’s not winning a trophy, but it felt like it was.
‘Of course, winning the FA Cup is one of the highest achievements you can receive as a football player.
‘For an underdog club like Pompey to lift the Cup makes it more special – but to score those goal was special, too.’
Speaking to The News in March, Redknapp revealed the success that day against Stuart Pearce’s side saved his second Pompey tenure.
Immediately after the full-time whistle, he was seen embracing Mendes in celebration.
But the ex-Portugal international can’t remember what was said due to the emotion of the occasion.
He added: ‘I saw the footage after the Manchester City game and Harry Redknapp came to me and gave me a hug and he said something to me, but I can’t remember!
‘I know he said something to me, but I can’t remember.’