down the middle

Kontol

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I'm wondering how down" works n this sentence? Why not say "on the middle?"

GOAL! Man Utd 3-2 Arsenal (Ronaldo 70 pen)
Ronaldo closes his eyes, takes a deep breath ... and then smashes the penalty straight down the middle. It’s his second goal of the night and the 801st of his career!

 

Skrej

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With something like a ball field, we couldn't say 'on the middle' anyway. We could say 'in the middle', but that would mean in the center of the field. 'Down the middle' indicates that it was movement along the length of the field, and 'straight' means it remained equidistant from the sidelines.

Edit:"Straight down the middle" is also a set phrase that means exactly in the middle. It's not exclusive to soccer.

For example, if I offered to split the dinner bill straight down the middle with a friend, we would both pay exactly half the total cost, even if our individual orders didn't cost the same.
 
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Kontol

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In another example, are "down" and "on" interchangeable in this sentence?

GOAL! Liverpool 3-0 Arsenal (Salah 73)
Tsimikas flicks a header on down the left. Jota eyebrows another header down the channel, and releases Mane. He races into the box, draws Ramsdale, and squares for Salah, who leaps to sidefoot into the net from close range. That’s a fine goal.
 

emsr2d2

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We don't use "on the middle" in football or any other context. We use (in the relevant contexts):

- down the middle
- in the middle
- through the middle
 

jutfrank

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As skrej has suggested above, down means that there is movement along a line.

In this case, the line connects the ball on the penalty spot to the centre of the goal.
 

Tdol

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Normally, people kick a penalty to one side or the other and the goalkeeper tries to guess which way to dive and has to dive far enough to save it. However, if you kick it straight down the middle, you kick it into the centre, without telegraphing what you're going to do, and the goalkeeper will dive one way, while the ball goes straight down the middle.

Watch penalty #3 on this YouTube video:
 
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