Jan brace downs brave Saints
By James Pearson
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink netted a brace as Celtic beat St Johnstone 2-1.
Jan vennegoor of Hesselink netted a brace as Celtic booked their place in the Scottish Cup final with a hard-fought 2-1 win over St Johnstone at Hampden Park.
The Dutchman opened the scoring from the penalty spot after 13 minutes only for a Stephen McManus own goal to restore parity shortly after.
However, The Bhoys were not to be denied and Vennegoor of Hesselink's second soon after half-time was enough to give Celtic a 52nd final berth.
Celtic made a bright start to the contest, but after weathering the storm St Johnstone fashioned a gilt-edged chance of their own after 10 minutes that should have been taken.
Jason Scotland was indecisive with the finish after breaking the offside trap down the left allowing McManus to make the block with only Artur Boruc to beat.
Celtic made the First Division side pay within minutes with Vennegoor of Hesselink winning a penalty at the other end despite minimal contact from Saints keeper Kevin Cuthbert.
Cuthbert dived the right way from the ensuing spot-kick, although Vennegoor of Hesselink's shot was so precise it hit the inside of the post and rolled across the line into the left-hand corner of the net.
The Bhoys were not in front for long with Martin Hardie's goal-bound shot being helped into his own net by McManus as The Saints issued a swift riposte.
Celtic finished the half in the ascendancy, but after Vennegoor of Hesselink's effort was tipped over they only had a wayward Derek Riordan header and Aiden McGeady shot to show for their efforts.
Paul Hartley was close to opening his Celtic account after half-time with Cuthbert pushing his shot wide for a corner from Riordan's neat lay-off.
However, Celtic did restore their lead from the resulting corner when Shunsuke Nakamura's ball from out wide right was headed home by Vennegoor of Hesselink at the near post.
A fine move by St Johnstone gave Scotland a half a sight of goal only for Lee Naylor to make a quick block to deny the pacey striker from virtually point-blank range.
St Johnstone were certainly not going down without a fight and a Hardie header forced a good save out of Boruc while Scotland's low goal-bound effort was cleared off the line.
Substitute Thomas Gravesen nearly got his name on the scoresheet while Paul Sheerin tested Boruc with a stinging drive from outside the box at the other end.
Celtic were happy to retain possession in the closing stages as Gordon Strachen's troops held out for a just-about deserved semi-final success.