Newcastle United virtually sealed their place in the knockout stages of the Europa League last night, as they secured a 1-0 at home to Belgian side Brugge. Gabriel Obertan scored the only goal of the night but was notably assisted by some fine work from Sammy Ameobi, who caught the eye with a stellar performance.

The younger of the Ameobi brothers started alongside Papiss Cisse for the Magpies, ironically taking the place of his older sibling Shola, who watched from the bench. Sammy has missed most of the season with injury which seemed to have halted his promising career temporarily, but last night’s man of the match display reignited his push for the first team. Interestingly, Sammy took to social networking site Twitter to send a message to the fans before the game, tweeting “Been patiently waiting for an opportunity like tonight”. After last night, we can certainly say he definitely took his chance with both hands.

Worlds apart from the playing style of his brother, Sammy has the skill and creativity that Alan Pardew seems to love and showed it brilliantly when he assisted Obertan for his strike. Expertly flicking the ball over one man in his own half before bursting through the middle, Ameobi sent a perfectly weighted pass to Obertan before being fouled and the former Manchester United man – himself looking for a way back into Pardew’s first team plans – rifled home.

The goal was enough to see off a spirited but blunt Brugge side, who battled hard but ultimately couldn’t break down the resolute Newcastle defence. The best chance they created fell to prolific striker Carlos Bacca, but his header bounced over the bar when it looked easier to score.

Perhaps it should have been more of a comfortable score line for the Magpies though, as Papiss Cisse went close on a number of occasions. Bojan Jorgacevic denied his snapshot in the first half and was relieved when the same man fluffed a header on the quarter of an hour mark. The finish let down the excellent build up to the chance, with Shane Ferguson supplying the Senegal striker with a superb cross.

Cisse also had what looked like a stone wall penalty turned down after being bundled over inside the box but referee Martin Hansson – famed as the referee who missed Thierry Henry’s handball against Ireland – waved away the strong protests.

Barring the Bacca headed chance; the Belgian side never looked like beating Steve Harper in the Newcastle goal, although the veteran stopper may have been beaten in added time by substitute Ivan Trickovski’s shot, which was deflected behind by Steven Taylor.

Hansson soon blew for full time though, and the result from the other game made the win even more important for Newcastle. Bordeaux and Maritimo drew in Portugal, meaning Pardew’s side are out in front in Group D with a three point cushion over the French side who occupy second place.

Arguably more important than the result though was the team that Pardew chose. Only Cheick Tiote and Davide Santon started both last night’s game and the weekend game against Sunderland, meaning the Toon boss has a fully fit squad to choose from on Sunday when West Brom are the opposition. Teenagers Gael Bigirimana and Sammy Ameobi were impressive, while Shane Ferguson had another good performance from left-back and looks a genuine first-team squad player.