A match full of tension and drama in Guayaquil ends with nothing to separate the two sides, as Ecuador and Argentina are forced to share the spoils after a 1-1 draw.
Alvarez’s first-half strike looked like it would be enough to secure all three points.
Until a late VAR check for handball presented Alfaro’s side the opportunity, they had been waiting for all match.
Valencia saw his initial penalty saved but collect the rebound and slot it home in the second effort.
It was a deserved goal for La Tri, who were equal to their opponents all match.
Argentina looked to combine well in possession but ran out of steam at the end – leaving the door slightly ajar for Ecuador to get back into the match.
The international break ends with both Argentina and Ecuador through to the World Cup, pleasing both coaches.
ECUADOR XI (4-2-3-1): Hernan Galindez;
Pervis Estupinan, Piero Hincapie, Robert Arboleda, Byron Castillo;
Carlos Gruezo, Moises Caicedo; Alan Franco, Gonzalo Plata, Romario Ibarra; Michael Estrada.
ARGENTINA XI (4-2-3-1): Geronimo Rulli;
Nicolas Tagliafico, Nicolas Otamendi, Lucas Martinez Quarta, Gonzalo Montiel;
Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes; Julian Alvarez, Alexis Mac Allister, Nicolas Gonzelez; Lionel Messi.
Messi works a one-two pass with Mac Allister, getting the PSG forward to the edge of the area where he again plays it out to his left for Tagliafico. The full-back drives a low cross into the area where Gonzalez fails to get a shot away – presenting the opportunity for Alvarez, who coolly slots it home.
VALENCIA HAS THE LAST LAUGH! 1-1! The captain steps up and fires his penalty to the left, only to see the goalkeeper guess correctly to parry it away. Then, with extreme composure, the forward collects the loose ball and has time to take a touch before slotting a finish past the out of place Rulli! Late drama.
Immovable Otamendi controls the show.
Argentina centre-back Nicolas Otamendi was near-flawless marshalling his defensive unit and was at no fault for the goal.
Otamendi won four out of his five aerial duels – two more than any other team-mate – and six of his eight total duels.
Speedy Gonzalez runs straight to the bench.
Nicolas Gonzalez started on the left wing for Argentina but was largely ineffective.
Gonzalez was credited with zero created chances and only had a passing accuracy of 44 per cent in the final third.
What does it mean?
Both teams have secured qualification to the World Cup. Still, Argentina’s avoiding defeat again means they are now 31 games unbeaten, a run that stretches back to the 2019 Copa America semi-finals.
Argentina will face reigning European champions Italy on June 1.
Meanwhile, Ecuador can start to think about preparations for their first World Cup finals appearance since 2014.
Likewise, for more football news like this, click here.